Articles By Rob Doster
The proceedings in the Aquatic Center have been a little hit or miss for Team USA, but there are plenty more opportunities for medals as swimming continues to dominate the early schedule.
Today's Fab Five, which will highlight NBC's prime-time schedule starting at 8 pm Eastern:
1. Men's Swimming
Two events, two shots at gold for the U.S. men. Clark Burckle and Scott Weltz will contend with each other and a strong field in the 200m breaststroke final (2:30 pm Eastern in real time), while Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones are among the contenders in the always-thrilling 100m freestyle (3:20 Eastern).
2. Women's Swimming
Golden girls Dana Vollmer, Allison Schmitt and Missy Franklin (right) will lead the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay team in its quest for gold (4:04 Eastern), while Kathleen Hersey and Cammile Adams will contend in the 200m butterfly.
3. Men's Gymnastics All-Around Finals
Redemption's the theme for the U.S. men after a bumbling showing in the team finals (11:30 Eastern in real time). Danell Leyva and John Orozco are the American combatants in what will be a rugged six-event rotation. Orozco in particular will have to rebound from a brutal showing in the team finals.
4. Men's Synchronized Springboard
Americans aren't normally known for conformity, but Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen will try to mirror one another all the way to the medal stand. Dumais (32) and Ipsen (19) are separated by 13 years but will try to be indistinguishable in this unique Olympic event (10 am Eastern real time).
5. Beach Volleyball
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh continue their quest for gold as they take on Austria (6 pm Eastern).
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Call her The Natural. In her first Olympic Games, Missy Franklin, a giggly 17-year-old high schooler from Colorado, has already shown an uncanny ability to flip the switch when the lights come on and transition into steely veteran with a killer instinct. Only minutes after completing a semifinal heat in the 200m freestyle, Franklin hopped back in the pool and swam to gold in the 100m backstroke, perhaps her signature event.
"Indescribable," she said. "I still can't believe that happened. I don't even know what to think. I saw my parents' reaction on the screen and I just started bawling. I can't even think right now."
She had better get used to the feeling. Franklin has five more events and the potential to emerge from these Games as America's breakout star.
Franklin's male counterpart, Matt Grevers, was also up to the challenge in the 100m backstroke, setting an Olympic record to earn the gold medal.
The American exploits in the pool overshadowed a disappointing performance from the American male gymnasts, who slipped to fifth after entering the All Around finals as medal favorites. Princes William and Harry were on hand to watch the Great Britain men earn Bronze, after a successful Japanese inquiry vaulted the Japanese men from fourth to second and knocked the Ukrainians off the medal stand.
Samuel L. Jackson Tweet of the Night
One of the delightful discoveries of these Olympic Games has been the Twitter feed of actor Samuel L. Jackson, who offers real-time insights during the NBC prime-time broadcasts. They're exactly what you would expect from the guy who played Jules in Pulp Fiction: profanity-laced observations that are steeped in pro-America jingoism. Well worth a follow @SamuelLJackson if want to watch right along with him (and if you're not easily offended by liberal use of expletives).
Last night, Jackson signed off with this shout-out to Michael Phelps (slightly censored for family reading): "Just so ya know,looking forward to MIKE P going knee deep in ALL THAT A-- in the 200 FLY!!!! Go USA!
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Misty May-Treanor, right, of the U.S. looks on as teammate Kerri Walsh digs out a ball during the beach volleyball match against Czech Republic at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, in London. The beach volleyball matches, held in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, have been among the most popular events of these Olympics.
Today's Fab Five, which will highlight NBC's prime-time schedule starting at 8 pm Eastern:
1. Men's 200m Butterfly
Another night, another shot at history for Phelps, who will be going for his third straight gold medal in this event. No Ryan Lochte in this one, so all eyes will be on Phelps as he chases career gold medal No. 15 and attempts to tie Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina's record of 18 career Olympic medals.
2. Men's 800m Freestyle Relay
Provided Phelps is able to medal in the 200m butterfly, this race takes on added significance, as it represents Phelps' chance to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. A medal in the 200 and 800 relay would give the Olympic legend a staggering 19 career medals.
3. Women's Gymnastics Team Finals
The men fell flat, so it's up to the American women to salvage U.S. pride and find their way to the medal stand. Jordyn Wieber will have to shake off the crushing disappointment of failing to make the individual all around finals and the American women to their first all-around gold since the Magnificent 7 in 1996. That's a heavy weight for a 5-2, 117-pounder to carry, but she's up to the task.
4. Men's and Women's Tennis
Novak Djokovic will face American Andy Roddick, and Maria Sharapova takes on Laura Robson of Great Britain to highlight the tennis slate.
5. Men's Basketball
The 2012 edition of the Dream Team should barely break a sweat against Tunisia, giving coach Mike Krzyzewski a chance to experiment with different lineup combinations.
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The most poignant image of the London Games thus far: NBC's interviews with U.S. gymnasts Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas while team linchpin and gold medal favorite Jordyn Wieber sobbed in the background, her dream of individual all-around gold shattered. Despite ranking fourth in the all-around standings following the preliminary rounds, Wieber fell victim to the cruel, capricious rule limiting each nation to two candidates for all-around medals.
Gymnastics icon Bela Karolyi voiced his displeasure from the NBC studio. "To eliminate somebody because a teammate beat her," he fumed. "Still among the first four gymnasts in the world, and still you're eliminated?"
Wieber's ability to bounce back from crushing disappointment and lead the U.S. team in its Tuesday night attempt at gold will be one of the compelling storylines of the Olympic fortnight.
Meanwhile, Beijing's golden boy continued his fall from Olympic favor. Michael Phelps suffered his second heartbreaking loss of these Olympics when flavor-of-the-moment Ryan Lochte was unable to hold a lead over France in the 4x100 freestyle, leaving the U.S. with silver. Lochte will have plenty of chances for redemption, but one wonders whether Phelps will end up regretting his decision to return for these Games and possibly tarnish his amazing legacy, even if only slightly.
Ah, heartbreak. It's what make sports so compelling, never more so than at the Olympics.
Okay, NBC. We'll play along. All during the Olympics, we'll be presenting a rundown of the essential, can't-miss events — according to when they'll be broadcast on NBC. (We don't sanction watching the Olympics at work, but there are streaming options for those who choose to do so.)
Today's Fab Five, with broadcast times (all times Eastern):
1. Women's Volleyball - USA vs. Brazil, 11:30 am
No, this isn't the beach version, so no bikinis. But still worth watching.
2. Women's Basketball - USA vs. Angola, 5:15 pm
There's no Charles Barkley on hand to deliver forearm shivers to defenseless Angolans, but the US will still be heavy favorites. Expect Geno Auriemma to have scared this team straight after some opening jitters vs. Croatia.
3. Men's 200m Freestyle Finals, 8 pm
The ongoing Ryan Lochte-Michael Phelps subplot to these Games takes a breather — the event is Phelps-free — but the field is loaded as Lochte goes for gold.
4. Men's Gymnastics Team Finals, 8 pm
Led by 2008 individual silver medalist Jonathon Horton, the U.S. men are gunning for their first team gold medal since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
5. Women's 100m Backstroke, 8 pm
Missy "The Missile" Franklin will attempt to back up the hype in this eagerly anticipated event, which is likely Franklin's best shot at gold.
See more 2012 Olympics coverage.
London Olympics 2012 Photo of the Day
American gymnast Gabrielle Douglas eyes perfection on the uneven bars during the team portion of the women's gymnastics competition. Her stellar performance ultimately earned her a spot on the gymnastics all-around for Team USA.
See more 2012 Olympics coverage.
The 2012 Summer Olympics: What to Watch, July 27
The Opening Ceremony
Time: 7:30 pm Eastern (tape delay), NBC
Years of preparation and months of hype are finally giving way to actual competition, but today's highlight is undoubtedly the Opening Ceremony kicking off the Games of the XXX Olympiad (careful when you Google that phrase, by the way).
In addition to the entrance of hundreds of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron that will burn for the next fortnight, the Opening Ceremony is designed to showcase the culture of the host country, so it's no surprise that Londoners have chosen to feature two of England's most significant cultural contributions: James Bond and the Beatles. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire) has assembled an extravaganza titled "The Isles of Wonders," and among those wonders will be a major role for actor Daniel Craig, best known for portraying James Bond, and a performance from Beatle Sir Paul McCartney that will close the night.
In between, there are reports that 70 sheep will take part in the ceremony, along with a few horses, chickens and sheep dogs. Seriously. Draw your own conclusions.
Bookmark this Site
In addition to checking back with Athlon Sports for daily updates on what to watch and what you might have missed, check this site for real-time updates on record-setting performances, courtesy of our friends across the pond at The Guardian.
Moe Norman was a painfully shy, eccentric Canadian prone to wearing garish, mismatched outfits. He was also quite possibly the greatest striker of the golf ball in history. No less of an authority than Tiger Woods has said that only two golfers in history “owned their swing”: Ben Hogan and Moe Norman. “I want to own mine,” Woods added with a hint of envy.
Norman’s swing featured an abbreviated backswing and shorter-than-normal follow-through that produced uncanny accuracy. And it was purely self-taught; Norman never took a lesson in his 75 years.
His shyness — some have speculated that Norman might have suffered from a form of autism — precluded a career on the PGA Tour. But Norman did share his unique approach to golf with thousands of fortunate players through a long series of clinics. One of his partners in these clinics also happens to be Craig Shankland, a member of Athlon Sports’ Elite Eight staff of golf instructors. Here, Craig shares his memories of Moe, golf’s greatest ball-striker and most unique personality, a true legend of the game.
Printed here are my thoughts and remembrances of Moe Norman, many of them from the clinics that we did together over 18 years.
I present these with a deep sense of respect for his incredible skill at ball-striking and consistency. There will never be another like him. Watching Moe hit balls was riveting. You could not believe how good he was time after time.
People have asked me why Moe and I got along so well. I reply by noting that many have called me a champion of idiosyncrasies. I have always loved people who would come along with unusual styles and could beat your brains in. I have taught people not to change their style, but to nurture it and show how it could be an asset. I hate people who rebuild something like that and ruin individuality.
Moe had an unusual, brilliant style that I deeply admired. In turn, he also admired and respected what I did. We had a mutual respect.
Moe had some difficulty trusting and relating to people. If someone came up to Moe for an autograph, he would turn away. If I told Moe that the person was a very good player, he would sign the autograph. He only talked to people who could play — if I told him so. He knew then that they respected him and were not there to ridicule him.
When I would ask him if people should copy his swing, he would laugh. “How can anyone copy my swing? They would come and take you away,” he would say. “You can’t be me. Everyone is copying everyone else. Be yourself; don’t try to be me. You can’t be me.”
The first time I met him was during one of my free clinics. He was in the audience. After I finished what I thought was a perfect display of shotmaking and shot-shaping, he approached me. “Do you know who I am?” he asked. “Yes, Moe Norman,” I said. He replied, “How would you like me to come next week and show you how a ball should really be hit?” I told him to come on. We did clinics together for the next 18 years.
He was very comfortable hitting balls. He was uncomfortable around people he didn’t know. Hitting balls was his life; no one could do it better. After hitting balls, he would withdraw, getting lost in his own world where no one else could disturb him.
Moe never gave any credence to putting. “There’s no skill in that,” he would say. “Hitting pins in regulation — that takes skill.”
Moe once told me that during a practice round for the Canadian Open, he was playing with Canadian golf great George Knudson. Moe offered to play for $5 per pin hit in regulation. George agreed with a laugh, thinking that no one hits pins in regulation. After three holes, Moe had hit three pins, and George walked back to the clubhouse.
On the first hole of a practice round, a 230-yard par 3, the media assembled around Moe and teased him about his putting. Moe pulled a club from his bag, struck the ball perfectly, and turned to the reporters, saying, “I’m not putting today.” The ball rolled into the hole for a hole-in-one. It was one of 17 holes-in-one that Moe hit.
Moe broke all the rules of conventional golf mechanics. He held the club in the palms of his huge hands. I always said he had no wrists, only arms with hands. He used an abnormally wide stance; most players, even pros, would whiff while trying to address the ball in his footprints. He started the club at least a foot behind the ball. He reached for the ball, extending his arms as far as they would go, arms and shaft on a single axis. He faced the ball at impact, his feet flat on the ground. His arms did all the work. His body seemed to react to his powerful arm swing.
We went to Bay Hill to do a clinic for a medical company. Moe didn’t know the way from Daytona, so he said he would follow me in his car. We started onto I-95 heading for I-4 and Orlando. When I looked in my rear-view mirror, I didn’t see Moe. I slowed down to 50 mph. Finally, I spotted him in his car, going 45 max. Truck drivers were honking and yelling. But Moe had the volume turned up so high in his Cadillac that he was oblivious to the noise. When we finally got to Bay Hill, the noise from his radio was deafening. Science and math tapes were blaring from his tape player, with the volume turned up as high as it would go. He was in a world all his own.
When we got there, we went looking for the practice area where the clinic would be held. Arnold Palmer came toward us in his cart and said, “Hi. How are you, Moe?” Immediately, Moe shot back, with an obvious reference to Palmer’s lack of accuracy off the tee: “I haven’t had a thorn bush stuck up my ass for the last seven years. How about you, Arnie?” Palmer cracked up. He knew that Moe was never in the bushes.
Over 41,352 people attended our clinics. How do I know? Moe counted every person who ever attended a clinic. He knew the exact number of balls we hit and how many tees we used each time.
Moe showed up exactly at the time of the show, never earlier. He was never late. He would have continued to hit balls forever for the crowd if he could have. If there were golf balls in a pile or on the ground, anywhere, he would hit them. You would often find him hunting for range balls on the edge of the range, on lake banks, in deep rough, off on his own. If there were snakes and alligators in there, he didn’t care.
He came down to Florida each year in a new Cadillac. He would proudly show it to me. Inside the trunk were new clothes and golf balls all over the place. New Titleists out of their packs. “Imagine that,” he said. “They gave me all these balls. Why did they give me all these? All I need is one.”
Sometimes the weather got really hot during the clinics. Moe would be there in his turtleneck, a Gucci sweater and heavy twill slacks. “Aren’t you hot?” I would ask him. “I don’t sweat,” he would reply. “Look at my hands.” They would be dry as a bone.
Moe told a story about a day he played with Sam Snead: “There was a par 5 with a stream across the fairway. I pulled out my driver. Sam said, ‘You can’t carry the stream today; it’s into the wind.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to carry the stream. I’m going to run the ball across the bridge. I did it, and Snead couldn’t believe it. When we got to the bridge, he said, ‘I can’t believe you did that.’ I rolled a ball across the bridge and said, ‘See? It fits.’”
Moe hit 32 balls off the same tee one day without touching the tee. He simply would place another ball atop the same tee, until finally, on the 33rd ball, he moved the tee slightly with his shot. “How long have you had that tee?” I asked him. “Seven years,” he said. “I’ve only used one ball and one tee in seven years. It’s a cheap game!”
On a hole that required a driver and a wedge, Moe would sometimes hit wedge and driver, in that order. When asked why, he said, “To have fun. And I still made birdie.”
Here’s a sample of some of Moe’s many sayings over the years.
To older audiences: “Stop worrying about when you are going to die, but how good you are going to live. Get off your ass and go practice!”
On the Vardon (overlap) grip: “It stinks. You’ve got 10 fingers. Why would you take any of them off the club? How dumb is that?”
On his grip: “Where do you hold a baseball bat, a tennis racquet, a hockey stick? In the palms of your hands. That’s where the meat is, not in the fingers. You’re playing a tune. Fingers are fast, palms are quiet.”
On how tightly he held the club: “I draw blood with my left hand.”
On gripping the club like a bird or a tube of toothpaste: “That’s crap. It’s all bunk.”
“The most important inches in golf are the five and a half inches between your ears.”
“In my backswing, I place a coin 41 inches behind the ball and two tees 22 inches in front of the ball. I swing back over the coin to get extension and between the two tees to keep the clubhead square 22 inches after impact. I see that in my mind, and I do it.”
“I don’t take divots. I comb the grass. Give me your Rolex watch; I’ll hit it right off the top. I wouldn’t break it. I’d hit the ball off the top of your head and wouldn’t harm a hair. I’d give you the best butch cut you ever had.”
“I’m a superintendent’s dream. ‘Look, Moe was here. No sign of any divots, just where his shoes were.’”
“Distance is only a word. I am accuracy-oriented. What good is it if you hit the ball 300 yards into the trees?”
On the last time he missed a fairway: “1974. The ball hit a sprinkler head and bounced out of bounds.”
“The ball does exactly what I tell it to do, every time.”
“You play hoping golf; I play knowing golf. You hope it’s going down the fairway. I know it’s going down the fairway.”
“I swing the whole golf stick. Swing the clubhead? That’s crap. You have to learn to swing the handle first. If you can’t control the handle, how can you swing the clubhead?”
“There’s no such thing as a bad lie.”
“There’s no wrist roll in my swing. You could cook an egg on the clubface after impact, sunny side up.”
“Hogan and I hated 36-hole events. In the afternoon round, we were always in our morning divots!”
“I use smooth force, not brute force.”
“My right hand is an ornament on the club.”
“I lead so well. The handle always gets to the ball first. The handle is past my left leg before the ball is hit.”
“I hit my right shoulder on my downswing, I lag so much. One day, I lagged so much, I hit my right ankle!”
On starting the club so far behind the ball: “It does four things for me. You can’t take the club outside, you can’t lift the club up, you are already in your turn, and it eliminates a foot of the swing!”
“I hit the ball down my chosen line of aim, every time.”
“Hogan said, ‘The straight shot is an accident.’ I told him, ‘Come with me and you will see a lot of accidents.’”
“I’ve hit 5,000,000 balls and never had a sore muscle in my life. I can stand here all day and hit balls.”
“I’m the greatest ball-striker because I have the fewest moving parts.”
“Golf is not a turning action. It’s a shifting action.”
“It’s a swing, not a hit. You should have a pulling action.”
“Golf is not supposed to be work. It’s supposed to be fun. So have fun.”
“I never get mad. Getting mad makes you swing worse.”
“Golf is easy. People make it hard.”
“I feel like a windmill, never jerky.”
“You will never see a cleat on my left shoe (his foot would remain flat on the ground). My big toe never moves.”
“I don’t force it, I finesse it. I don’t bash it, I bump it.”
“I can’t hit the ball off line if I want to; my swing won’t let me. I can’t hit a bad shot if I tried; my swing won’t let me.”
“I want my left knee past the ball before impact.”
“I am the straightest that ever lived. If there was ever a tournament at midnight, I’d win. I know where to find my ball every time. I wish the fairways were four inches wide. The ball will fit!”
On how he wanted to be remembered: “I’ll be walking down the fairway, off into the sunset with a big smile on my face. Isn’t it great to have been able to do something no one else in the world can do!”
Ernie Els' win in the British Open marked the fourth major championship of his remarkable career, and the third decade in which he's won a major. He's now tied with Phil Mickelson in career majors, which begs the question: Who's the second-best player of the Tiger Woods era in golf? A side-by-side comparison doesn't exactly clear things up, but let's try it anyway.
The Case for Mickelson
• 40 career PGA Tour wins, tied for ninth all time
• Three Masters wins, tied for fourth-most all time
• 33 top-10 finishes in major championships
• A record five second-place finishes at the U.S. Open
• Five runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour money list
• Multiple PGA Tour wins in 13 seasons
The Case for Els
• 19 PGA Tour wins, 27 European Tour wins
• Multiple Open wins on both sides of the Atlantic, joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagen, Lee Trevino and Bobby Jones
• 33 top-10 finishes in major championships
• Two Orders of Merit for top money-winner on the European Tour
• The all-time money leader on the European Tour
• Unlike Mickelson, Els briefly ascended to the top spot in the World Golf Ranking on three separate occasions
Mickelson's go-for-broke style, one that has produced heroic shots like the pine straw 5-iron at The Masters, has earned him many fans, but it has also given rise to some truly tragic moments, like his 72nd hole meltdown at Winged Foot when that elusive first U.S. Open win was in his grasp. Even throughout the Woods era, Lefty has been the people's choice, a latter-day Arnold Palmer who has thrilled and disappointed his throngs of followers in equal measure. His legendary short game is pure magic, but his persistent wildness off the tee is identifiable for duffers everywhere. Mickelson's battle with arthritis and wife Amy's battle with breast cancer have added to his everyman appeal.
Els' effortless game gives off a totally different vibe. His smooth, syrupy swing is the game's gold standard, in a class all time with Sam Snead's. His relatable struggles with the putter also endear him to his legion of fans, and his son's battle with autism has linked him to a worthy cause.
Both guys exude class, although there are persistent whispers among Tour insiders that Lefty isn't all that popular with his fellow players (FIGJAM, anyone?).
It's close, but we'll go with Mickelson. His three wins in the world's most prestigious tournament — one of which denied Els a lone Masters win — nudge him slightly ahead of Els' multiple Open wins. Lefty hasn't distinguished himself in Ryder Cup play, but he has outshined Els at the Presidents Cup, giving him an edge in international team competition. Lefty has come close more often in majors, with 18 top-3 finishes to Els' 14.
Els has probably had a greater worldwide impact, but Mickelson has been the slightly better player.
What do you think?
By Rob Doster
Follow me on Twitter @AthlonDoster
So did Ernie Els win it? Or did Adam Scott lose it? Both. The agony and the ecstasy of golf were on full display at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and when it was over, Els had his second Claret Jug and fourth major, and Scott had first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be Greg Norman. Or Jason Dufner.
On a day when the field was retreating like Napoleon from Russia, Els posted a back-9 4-under 32 in the stiffening breezes of Royal Lytham, rolling in a clutch birdie on the 72nd hole before grabbing a sandwich and watching Scott implode with bogeys on the final four holes. It was an utterly shocking turn of events on a day that seemed like a Scott coronation until the heartbreaking conclusion.
Through 11 holes, it seemed utterly hopeless. Noted stat geek Ken Pomeroy had Els, who was 6 shots behind at the turn, with a 3 percent chance of winning. Scott kept finding fairways and greens, and his closest competitors at the start of the day — Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker and Tiger Woods — never mustered anything resembling a charge, finding bunkers and rough as though they were ball magnets. Woods in particular made a colossal mental error that essentially ended his chances, attempting a miracle bunker shot on 6 that led to a triple bogey (and possibly a re-tweaked knee).
But a Scott bogey at 16 left Els standing over a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 with a chance to post 7-under and get within a shot. Els drained the putt and unleashed what was for him a stunning show of emotion. Clearly rattled by the roar up ahead, Scott found gnarly greenside rough with his approach on 17, leading to another bogey and a tie. On 18, after splitting fairway after fairway, Scott found a bunker off the tee. After pitching out sideways, Scott mustered one final stand, nailing his approach within 10 feet, but the par putt to tie just slid past.
Els now has major championships in three different decades and four majors for his career, tying Phil Mickelson for second-most of the Woods era.
Woods and Snedeker tied for third a 3-under, while World No. 1 Luke Donald grabbed a back-door top 5, tying McDowell at 2-under.
So where does Scott's meltdown rank among major collapses? Well, Jean Van de Velde's triple bogey on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie when a double would have won is still the gold standard for major gags. Norman's final-round 78 at Augusta in 1996 is up there. Even the great Arnold Palmer blew the 1966 U.S. Open, losing a 7-shot lead with 9 holes to play. I'll put Scott in a class with Dufner, who held a 5-shot lead over Keegan Bradley with four holes to play at the 2011 PGA before three straight bogeys and two Bradley birdies put the two in a playoff.
- by Rob Doster
Follow me on Twitter @AthlonDoster
Brandt Snedeker has just put together one of the best 36-hole performances in major championship history. Snedeker's 10-under 130 total ties Nick Faldo's 1992 record for lowest 36-hole score at the British Open Championship, and his bogey-free performance thus far is the first time since Tiger Woods at the 2000 Open that a player has put together two blemish-free scorecards in the first two rounds of a major. Think about that for a second — Snedeker has matched an achievement by Woods at the absolute height of his powers, when he was in the midst of his Tiger Slam.
Here's a quick introduction to the affable Snedeker, who will be battling Adam Scott this weekend for his first major title.
• A native Nashvillian, Snedeker was a two-time Tennessee state high school champion for Montgomery Bell Academy. He went on to a stellar career at Vanderbilt, where as a senior, he was ranked No. 1 in the nation and earned SEC Male Golfer of the Year honors.
• After a two-win 2006 season on the Nationwide Tour, Snedeker joined the big boys on the PGA Tour and grabbed Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, winning the Wyndham Championship for his first Tour win.
• Snedeker contended for the 2008 Masters title, entering the final round two shots behind eventual winner Trevor Immelman before a final-round 77 ended his chances.
• He earned the second and third wins of his career in playoffs, beating Luke Donald at the 2011 Heritage and Kyle Stanley at the 2012 Farmers Insurance, where he erased a seven-shot final-round deficit.
• One of the world's greatest putters, Snedeker ranks fifth on Tour in 2012 in Strokes Gained, Putting.
• Snedeker is looking to one of his idols, five-time Open champion Tom Watson, for inspiration this week. "Well, it helped a bunch playing with him," Snedeker said of a recent round with his fellow Huck Finn lookalike. "He told me the first time over here he wasn't a big fan of links golf. The second time he played he loved it. You've got to kind of embrace it, realise that you're going to get good bounces, bad bounces, expect the worst and hope for the best."
• In November 2011, Snedeker had hip surgery to fix a degenerative condition, and then he had to miss the 2012 U.S. Open after cracking a rib during a coughing fit. Yep, coughing.
• Snedeker knows a 36-hole lead means little at a tournament where a gust of wind can end your chances. "A great experience, but it gets you a lot of nothing,” he said. “As anyone can tell you, there’s been a lot of leads lost after 36 holes. I’m going to try and buck that trend this weekend."
It could be D-day for long putters. Are they legal or illegal? A weapon or crutch? A trend or fad?
The United States Golf Association could be ready to speak out on the matter. The USGA and the R&A — golf’s two governing bodies — met at the U.S. Open to talk about the long and belly putters anchored into the body. Results of those discussions will be addressed publicly at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
The putters continue to stir up plenty of debate in golf circles. Either you're for them, or against them, with little area for compromise.
She's 50 meters — a single lap — away from history.
Dara Torres, swimming's elder stateswoman at age 45, is more than just one of the hottest 40-somethings on the planet. She remains a threat to win an Olympic medal in a physically demanding sport at an age when most of us are struggling to get off the couch to let the pizza guy in.
Torres is 28 years removed from her first Olympiad — Los Angeles, 1984. She's 18 years removed from an appearance in Sports Illustrated's 1994 swimsuit issue, when she became the first athlete to be featured among the supermodels — a development that I think we can all support.
Tonight, she aims to become the first American swimmer to compete in six Olympic Games when she swims in the finals of the 50-meter freestyle, a chaotic 24-second sprint to the finish that is swimming's version of the 100-meter dash.
Age hasn't caught up with Torres yet, but it's chasing her. "It's much tougher this time around," Torres said.
But after posting the third-fastest time in the semis, Torres is more than a sentimental choice. She's a legitimate threat. "It wasn't all I've got," she said of her performance in the semis.
Tonight, look for all she's got, and a little bit more. It might be enough to put America's hottest 45-year-old mom on a flight to London later this month.
Coverage of the swimming trials begins tonight on NBC at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
I think all golf fans would agree by proclamation that the PGA Tour season is too long. So what is the Tour doing to address this problem? That's right. They're lengthening the season. Just what the public was clamoring for — an endless Tour! It's like hell, with wedges and hybrids.
Starting in 2013, the Fall Series events will count toward the 2014 FedExCup points standings, meaning that the 2014 golf season will run from early October 2013 until late September 2014, with the 2015 season presumably starting the week following the 2014 Tour Championship.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is insane.
While technically, this change adds no new events to the schedule, it's a futile attempt to add meaning and drama where none exist. It further saturates a sports marketplace that barely had room for golf to begin with.
You thought baseball season was long; wait until you enjoy 365 days of FedExCup drama. This thing will make the siege of Leningrad seem brief and to the point.
Golf needs contraction, not expansion. With that in mind, I propose the following schedule, one that would enhance the fan experience, boost ratings by winnowing the excess and keep the spotlight where it belongs: on the best events.
We'll start in March, when spring is approaching and people are actually thinking about golf. We'll end it on Labor Day Weekend, reaching a crescendo just in time to clear the stage for football.
Here it is: 20 meaningful tournaments, one manageable schedule.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions—We'll leave Hawaii on the schedule. Spectacular scenery, nice reward for the previous year's winners.
Northern Trust Open—Riviera's historic enough to keep. We'll dump Pebble Beach; the pro-am is just too gimmicky.
Accenture Match Play—Coincinding with March Madness, we keep the Tour's version of bracketology.
Bay Hill—It's Arnold. Enough said.
WGC-Cadillac—Like Riviera, Doral's worth keeping.
The Masters—No comment necessary.
Wells-Fargo—Quail Hollow has earned its stripes.
Byron Nelson—Only to keep Lord Byron's name alive for future generations of players and fans. We'd do the same for Colonial if it had Hogan's name on it.
The Players—We'll let the Tour keep its biggest tournament.
The Memorial—It's Jack; see Arnold above.
U.S. Open—It's a major. We'll put some space around it.
WGC-Bridgestone—The WGC events assemble the best fields. We move this one to June to clear August for the playoffs.
AT&T National—Celebrates the 4th in the nation's capital.
The British Open—Golf's oldest tournament would grow in stature with a shorter schedule.
Canadian Open—We'll throw America's Hat a bone.
PGA Championship—It's a major, so make it the kickoff to the playoffs.
Barclays, Deutsche Bank and BMW—The playoffs take us through the dog days.
The Tour Championship—Finish it on Labor Day, create some tradition, and clear the stage. Football's here.
- by Rob Doster
The United States Golf Association and the PGA of America are fighting an uphill battle against slow play. They say five-hour rounds of golf are killing the game. People are quitting because they don’t have the time necessary to play. The two organizations have come up with all sorts of ideas to speed up play: 12-hole courses and the “Tee it Forward” program, promoting amateur hackers to move up a set of tees to make the game easier, more enjoyable and ultimately quicker to play.
For some casual fans, it may seem like Webb Simpson came out of nowhere. For Athlon and Brandel Chamblee, though, Simpson's breakthrough is not that surprising. Here's what we had to say about Simpson in our 2012 preview back in February, when we ranked him No. 12 among our 20 players to watch in the 2012 majors.
No. 12: Webb Simpson
Born: Aug. 8, 1985, Raleigh, N.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 2 | 2011 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2011 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,347,353 | World Ranking: 8
Brandel Chamblee's Take:
One of the biggest surprises of 2011 was the play of Webb Simpson and his improvements over his first two years on Tour. Webb gained yardage and improved every other aspect of his game, as evidenced by his being ranked No. 1 in the All Around category on Tour. Not surprisingly, he also won twice. His 110 putts at the U.S Open represented the lowest total in the field, and at the British Open he had 111, a number that was bettered by only two players.
His combination of length and accuracy with all clubs, his ability to get out of the rough and his knack for putting fast greens well make him a player to watch in every event, and in particular at the majors in 2012.
Major Championship Résumé
Masters - DNP
U.S. Open - T14
British Open - T16
PGA Championship - Cut
Best Career Finishes:
Masters - n/a
U.S. Open - T14 (2011)
British Open - T16 (2011)
PGA Championship - Cut (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 0
Top-25 Finishes: 2
Missed Cuts: 1
Webb Simpson is our national champion, and contrary to the naysayers who'll claim he backed into it, a 68-68 weekend on one of the toughest golf courses in U.S. Open history is the definition of earning it.
Simpson, who was six shots off the lead when Saturday dawned, was the only player to break par in both of the final two rounds on his way to posting a 1-over 281, although he had to sweat out a birdie putt on 18 by Graeme McDowell before claiming his third career PGA Tour win and first major championship. The 26-year-old Simpson was playing in only his second U.S. Open, and at a tournament where par is gold, it took a delicate par save on 18 to seal the win. Simpson chipped to four feet from a gnarly greenside lie, then coaxed in a ticklish slider to close his 68.
McDowell and playing partner Jim Furyk both had plenty of golf left to play when Simpson posted his number, and while McDowell was able to get close with a birdie at 17 and a makeable birdie look at 18, Furyk squandered what might prove to be his last best chance to win a second major, failing to make a birdie during his final-round 74 and bogeying three of his final six holes.
And thus ends Northern Ireland's two-year stranglehold on America's championship; McDowell won at Pebble Beach two years ago, and Rory McIlroy dominated at Congressional in 2011.
Some proclaimed that the tournament was over after Tiger Woods' 69-70 start gave him a share of the 36-hole lead. Thankfully, I wasn't one of them — but I thought it. Unfortunately, Tiger's comeback remains a work in progress. His 75-73 weekend is one of the bitterest disappointments of his career, but Olympic Club's fearsome sextet of opening holes deserve much of the credit. Tiger bogeyed three of the first six on Saturday on his way to a crushing 75, and he played the opening six holes at 6-over on Sunday. For the tournament, the field was more than 1,000 strokes over par on holes 1-6. Brutal.
He may be boring, but never, ever go to sleep on Jim Furyk. Especially at a U.S. Open.
Furyk put himself in great position to win his second U.S. Open championship with another steady, occasionally spectacular round at the Olympic Club. After offsetting two bogeys with two birdies during an even-par opening-round 70, Furyk did himself one better, knocking home three birdies with only two bogeys for a second-round 69 while the rest of the field was leaking oil like the Deepwater Horizon. If slow and steady win the race, consider Furyk a contender; they don't come much steadier.
Shockingly, the 2010 FedExCup champion is looking for his first top-10 finish in a major since the 2009 Masters, a string of 12 majors. Contending when the lights are brightest has historically been the norm for Furyk, who has 17 other top 10s in majors in addition to his U.S. Open win. A second Open would give him 17 career wins on the PGA Tour and likely punch his ticket for the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy whose swing defies convention — description, even.
Furyk won the 2003 Open at Olympia Fields by three shots, dominating the weekend in posting 8-under. No one will approach those numbers this year at a daunting Olympic track that is chewing up the world's best players and spitting them out like sunflower shells. Among the casualties was defending champion Rory McIlroy, who looked as if his mind was somewhere else (perhaps on girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki) as he limped around Olympic with rounds of 77 and 73.
Also missing the cut: World No. 1 Luke Donald, who continues to shrink from the big moments in majors and posted a disappointing 79-72.
Here's a factoid for you: Sectional qualifier Casey Martin, he of the congenital illness, high-profile court case and cart usage, beat both the World No. 1 (Donald) and World No. 2 (McIlroy). Martin finished Friday's round at 9-over. Funny game, golf.
U.S. Open Television Coverage
Thursday — ESPN Noon-3 p.m; 5-10 p.m.; NBC 3-5 p.m.
Friday — ESPN Noon-3 p.m; 5-10 p.m.; NBC 3-5 p.m.
Saturday — NBC 4-10 p.m.
Sunday — NBC 4-10 p.m.
ALL TIMES EASTERN
U.S. Open champions
1895 Horace Rawlins (173), Newport Country Club, Newport, Rhode Island
1896 James Foulis (152, +12), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
1897 Joe Lloyd (162, +10), Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois
1898 Fred Herd (328), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1899 Willie Smith (315), Baltimore Country Club, Lutherville, Maryland
1900 Harry Vardon (313, +9), Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois
1901 Willie Anderson (331), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1902 Laurie Auchterlonie (307), Garden City Golf Club Garden City, New York
1903 Willie Anderson (307), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1904 Willie Anderson (303), Glen View Club, Golf, Illinois
1905 Willie Anderson (314), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1906 Alex Smith (295), Onwentsia Club, Lake Forest, Illinois
1907 Alec Ross (302, +10), Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1908 Fred McLeod (322), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1909 George Sargent (290, +2), Englewood Golf Club, Englewood, New Jersey
1910 Alex Smith (298, +6), Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1911 John McDermott (307, +3), Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois
1912 John McDermott (294, -2), Country Club of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
1913 Francis Ouimet (304, +8), The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
1914 Walter Hagen (290, +2), Midlothian Country Club, Midlothian, Illinois
1915 Jerome Travers (297, +1), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1916 Chick Evans (286, +2), The Minikahda Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
1917 No tournament
1918 No tournament
1919 Walter Hagen (301, +17), Brae Burn Country Club, West Newton, Massachusetts
1920 Ted Ray (295, +7), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1921 Jim Barnes (289, +9), Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase, Maryland
1922 Gene Sarazen (288, +8), Skokie Country Club, Glencoe, Illinois
1923 Bobby Jones (296, +8), Inwood Country Club, Inwood, New York
1924 Cyril Walker (297, +9), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1925 Willie Macfarlane (291, +7), Worcester Country Club, Worcester, Massachusetts
1926 Bobby Jones (293, +5), Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio
1927 Tommy Armour (301, +13), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1928 Johnny Farrell (294, +10), Olympia Fields, Olympia Fields, Illinois
1929 Bobby Jones (294, +6), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1930 Bobby Jones (287, +6), Interlachen Country Club, Edina, Minnesota
1931 Billy Burke (292, +8), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1932 Gene Sarazen (286, +6), Fresh Meadow Country Club, Great Neck, New York
1933 Johnny Goodman (287, -1), North Shore Country Club, Glenview, Illinois
1934 Olin Dutra (293, +13), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1935 Sam Parks, Jr. (299, +11), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1936 Tony Manero (282, -6), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1937 Ralph Guldahl (281, -7), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1938 Ralph Guldahl (284, E), Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
1939 Byron Nelson (284, +8), Philadelphia Country Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1940 Lawson Little (287, -1), Canterbury Golf Club, Beachwood, Ohio
1941 Craig Wood (284, +4), Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
1942 No tournament
1943 No tournament
1944 No tournament
1945 No tournament
1946 Lloyd Mangrum (284, -4), Canterbury Golf Club, Beachwood, Ohio
1947 Lew Worsham (282, -2), St Louis Country Club, Saint Louis, Missouri
1948 Ben Hogan (276, -8), Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
1949 Cary Middlecoff (286, +2), Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois
1950 Ben Hogan (287, +7), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1951 Ben Hogan (287, +7), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1952 Julius Boros (281, +1), Northwood Club, Dallas, Texas
1953 Ben Hogan (283, -5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1954 Ed Furgol (284, +4), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1955 Jack Fleck (287, +7), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1956 Cary Middlecoff (281, +1), Oak Hill Country, Club Rochester, New York
1957 Dick Mayer (282, +5), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1958 Tommy Bolt (283, +3), Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma
1959 Billy Casper (282, +2), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1960 Arnold Palmer (280, -4), Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
1961 Gene Littler (281, +1), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1962 Jack Nicklaus (283, -1), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1963 Julius Boros (293, +9), The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
1964 Ken Venturi (278, -2), Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
1965 Gary Player (282, +2), Bellerive Country Club, Saint Louis, Missouri
1966 Billy Casper (278, -2), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1967 Jack Nicklaus (275, -5), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1968 Lee Trevino (275, -5), Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York
1969 Orville Moody (281, +1), Champions Golf Club, Houston, Texas
1970 Tony Jacklin (281, -7), Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota
1971 Lee Trevino (280, E), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1972 Jack Nicklaus (290, +2), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
1973 Johnny Miller (279, -5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1974 Hale Irwin (287, +7), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1975 Lou Graham (287, +3), Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois
1976 Jerry Pate (277, -3), Atlanta Athletic Club, Duluth, Georgia
1977 Hubert Green (278, -2), Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma
1978 Andy North (285, +1), Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
1979 Hale Irwin (284, E), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1980 Jack Nicklaus (272, -8), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1981 David Graham (273, -7), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1982 Tom Watson (282, -6), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
1983 Larry Nelson (280, -4), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1984 Fuzzy Zoeller (276, -4), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1985 Andy North (279, -1), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1986 Raymond Floyd (279, -1), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
1987 Scott Simpson (277, -3), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1988 Curtis Strange (278, -6), The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
1989 Curtis Strange (278, -2), Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York
1990 Hale Irwin (280, -8), Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois
1991 Payne Stewart (282, -6), Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota
1992 Tom Kite (285, -3), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
1993 Lee Janzen (272, -8), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1994 Ernie Els (279, -5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1995 Corey Pavin (280, E), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
1996 Steve Jones (278, -2), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1997 Ernie Els (276, -4), Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
1998 Lee Janzen (280, E), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1999 Payne Stewart (279, -1), Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
2000 Tiger Woods (272, -12), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
2001 Retief Goosen (276, -4), Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma
2002 Tiger Woods (277, -3), Bethpage State Park. Farmingdale, New York
2003 Jim Furyk (272, -8), Olympia Fields, Olympia Fields, Illinois
2004 Retief Goosen (276, -4), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
2005 Michael Campbell (280, E), Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
2006 Geoff Ogilvy (285, +5), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
2007 Ángel Cabrera (285, +5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
2008 Tiger Woods (283, -1), Torrey Pines, San Diego, California
2009 Lucas Glover (276, -4), Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale, New York
2010 Graeme McDowell (284, E), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
2011 Rory McIlroy (268, -16), Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
For any other player, it would have been a career-defining moment. For Tiger Woods, it was just another Sunday — even if those Sunday moments have become a little more rare lately.
Woods was in contention for his 73rd win to tie Jack Nicklaus for second on the all-time list, nine behind Sam Snead, and in just another example of Woods' incredible flair for the dramatic, he was at Jack's tournament, the Memorial, with the Golden Bear calling the action from the booth. He found himself a single shot out of the lead when he airmailed the green at Muirfield's par-3 16th hole, leaving himself an impossibly delicate chip shot from a fluffy, scraggly lie. Then, like so many times before, the magic happened. Woods' full-swing flop shot out Mickelson'd anything Lefty could summon, landing softly and perfectly and trickling into the hole for a birdie.
Tiger's host was suitably impressed.
"I just said out here a couple times, that under the circumstances, the circumstances being Tiger has been struggling, he found himself in a position in a tournament, and it was either fish or cut bait, he had one place to land the ball, he's playing a shot that if he leaves it short, he's going to leave himself again a very difficult shot, if he hits it long, he's going to probably lose the tournament," Nicklaus said afterwards. "He lands the ball exactly where it has to land. It doesn't make a difference whether it went in the hole or not. Going in the hole was a bonus. But what a shot. I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot."
Playing partner Rickie Fowler, who was in the process of imploding with a final-round 84 — 17 shots worse than Woods' 67 — took time off from calculating his score to enjoy the moment. "He had obviously a shot that — I guess not lucky, but you hit a good shot to get it inside 10 feet, and it came out perfect, landed kind of right on the crown of that ridge there, and the rest is history," Fowler said. "I mean, he obviously loves being in the moment, and that's where he kind of gets down, focuses and hits those shots. It was fun to see."
In case you missed it, here's the shot:
But there was more to his final-round 67 than one hero shot. Woods put a stamp on one of the best ball-striking weeks of his career, a week when he led the field in greens in regulation (73.6%).
He even impressed himself. "Boy, I hit it good today," Woods said. "That was some good stuff out there. I never really missed a shot today. It was just, as Sean (instructor Sean Foley) likes to say, go out there and put on a stripe show, and I did today. I hit it great, and I had the pace of the greens really nice today, where I struggled yesterday, and made a few putts."
Obviously, there's a little tournament in a couple of weeks at San Francisco's Olympic Club that Woods would dearly love to win, as he chases his personal Holy Grail — Nicklaus' 18 major championships. Woods thinks the current state of his game bodes well for his U.S. Open chances. "I'm excited because of the way I hit the golf ball this week," he said. "I hit the ball really well. At Olympic we're all going to have to hit the ball great there. That golf course, you can look at the history of guys who were in contention or who ended up winning, all were wonderful drivers of the golf ball and good, solid iron players. That's what it's going to take there at Olympic, more so than most U.S. Open sites."
Obviously, Tiger still has what it takes. He's still four away from Jack, but 19 majors are in play again.
Many recreational golfers have simple reasons for why they have a favorite golf hole. Golf course architects often use something different than looks or location to select their favorites. We asked noted designers Damian Pascuzzo, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Doak, Arthur Hills and Rees Jones to share some of their favorite holes. If you can get to all of them, let us know how you did it at email@example.com.
Ranch Golf Club, Par 5, 510 Yards
This Damian Pascuzzo design is rated one of the best in the state, and the first hole was created with all levels of golfer in mind. “There is a comforting feel to it, looking down from the tee over a grand expanse of fairway — 75 yards wide — with a solitary hickory tree left of center, a glimpse of the lake on the left and the native grasses,” Pascuzzo says. “There’s no pressure, but, if you are confident right out of the box, you can play left of the hickory and take a risky shot at the green in two, across the lake.” Pascuzzo also put in a cluster of fairway bunkers in the second landing area to penalize golfers.
Contact: (866) 790-9333, www.theranchgolfclub.com
French Lick Resort (Ross Course), Par 4, 419 yards
French Lick, Indiana
While the Pete Dye Course at French Lick gets more attention, many like this classic Donald Ross design much better, and a recent redesign brought back many of the original 1917 features. There is an undulating fairway with two bunkers in the middle that are reachable off the tee. A third bunker on the right near the green provides the optical illusion that it is closer to the putting surface than it actually is. There is a bunker on the left, protecting that side of the green. The green has a ridge running down the middle.
Contact: (888) 936-9360, www.frenchlickgolf.com
Half Moon Bay (Ocean), Par 3, 143 yards
Half Moon Bay, California
This is not only a beautifully designed hole, but also a very challenging short par 3. Arthur Hills' objective for the hole was to utilize the ocean view and keep the natural vegetation. “It is a simple short hole framed by native grassed mounds,” Hills says. “The beauty has to be seen.” Don’t get distracted by the splendor, or a bogey is a very real possibility. The ocean breeze will be in the golfer’s face, and three bunkers on the left will catch any tee shot that goes there. A tee shot that's too long will run off the humpback green and leave a challenging chip shot.
Contact: (650) 726-1800, www.hmbgolflinks.com
Bandon Trails, Par 4, 408 yards
Although Tom Doak designed another course in Bandon (Pacific Dunes), he was impressed by the work of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, especially on this challenging par 4. “The fairway features a sharp ridge running diagonally across it from left to right,” Doak says. “If you play too safely to the left and clear it, your drive will kick away to the left leaving a longer approach shot to a narrow green entrance; but if you play too boldly to the right, you won't get over the top of the ridge, and then you'll have a blind second shot at the same narrow target.”
Contact: (888) 345-6008, www.bandondunesgolf.com
Saratoga National, Par 3, 238 yards
Saratoga Springs, New York
This is the longest par 3 on the course and plays every yard of it. Most of the holes here have forced carries from the tee, and on this hole golfers must go over a small wetlands area that shouldn’t be a problem for most low- to mid-handicappers. There is a cluster of trees to the right framing the hole and creating an instant out of bounds for any slice. Going long is definitely better than short. The large bunker in the front right protects much of the putting surface. The green is oval-shaped and has subtle undulations.
Contact: (518) 583-4653, www.golfsaratoga.com
Pacific Dunes, Par 4, 316 yards
Doak designed this hole with both the scenery and the challenge in mind and succeeded on both quests. “Most people think first about the dramatic holes along the cliff tops, but this hole is the most confounding to better players,” Doak says. “It features a very narrow green set atop a ridge, with a 20-foot-deep bunker at the base of the ridge at the left front of the green, and a steep fall-off on the right side of the green, all in fairway-height grass. For most players, it's a straightforward drive followed by an accurate pitch. But good players who think they might try to drive the green run the risk of getting themselves to one side of the green, at which point it's all too easy to play back and forth across the green trying to get a shot to hold.”
Contact: (888) 345-6008, www.bandondunesgolf.com
Bay Harbor (Links), Par 5, 500 yards
Bay Harbor, Michigan
This hole has been described as one of the most picturesque in the country, and Hills, who designed the course, says that many golfers put it on their list of must plays. “Like all memorable holes it has to be seen to be appreciated,” Hills says. “The hole sticks in my memory because of the green site on a promontory, looking out over Lake Michigan. It has to be played.” From the tee box to the green, Lake Michigan runs along the right of the hole, presenting a spectacular water hazard. Anything right is gone, either in the water or in the natural vegetation of the rugged cliff. Golfers are also fighting the prevailing wind, which is in their face.
Contact: (231) 439-4028, www.bayharborgolf.com
CordeValle, Par 4, 325 yards
San Martin, California
When Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed this hole he wanted it to provide drama. Instead of making the drivable green unreceptive to tee shots, he created a green that held on for who wanted to be daring. “An exciting, drivable par 4, this straightaway downhill hole across a lake was showcased in the dramatic playoff at the 2011 Fry's.Com Open on the PGA Tour,” Trent Jones Jr. says. “From the elevated tee, if you are strong enough, you can play across the lake into a ‘catcher’s mitt’ green that will hold onto a blistering drive. If you miss, you just may be sunk.”
Contact: (408) 695-4590, www.cordevalle.com
Blackwolf Run (River), Par 4, 361 yards
Intimidation is the theme on this hole, which features water on both the left and right of the tee box. Hit a fairway wood to the left, avoiding the trees and the two fairway bunkers that designer Pete Dye has placed to grab a tee shot that looks like it is safe. Those bunkers, along with two on the two greenside bunkers, are meant to discourage long hitters from trying to reach the green from the tee. If that doesn’t, the water that guards the right side and the nearly 300 yards of carry required will make most golfers think twice and play the percentages.
Contact: (800) 344-2838, www.americanclubresort.com
Mirimichi, Par 4, 427 yards
This hole adds a little star power to our list; Justin Timberlake co-owns this eco-friendly course in West Tennessee with his parents, and it was the first course he ever played as a kid. This is a worthy hole to start the back nine and has everything a well-designed hole should have. It is picturesque, challenging and has both water and well-placed bunkers. The tee box looks out onto the fairway that doglegs to the left and protects that side with three fairway bunkers. There is another bunker on the right to capture any wayward long hitters. The green is 80 yards long and slopes severely from left to right where it is protected by a creek. The left side of the green is guarded by a bunker and native grass mounds.
Contact: (901) 259-3800, www.mirimichi.com
Lake of Isles (North), Par 3, 196 yards
North Stonington, Connecticut
Sometimes great golf holes just fall in your lap, and that is what designer Rees Jones thought when he saw the spot for this devilish short hole. “We found a small peninsula jutting out into the Lake of Isles that proved to be an idea natural greensite for the hole,” Jones says. “The green is on a left to right diagonal, requiring both proper line and distance to reach the green surface. Greenside bunkers collect shots hit long or right; the front approach allows for a bail out short of the green.”
Contact: (888) 475-3746, www.lakeofisles.com
Monarch Dunes, Par 5, 567 yards
The longest hole on the course is also the favorite of the man who designed it, Damian Pascuzzo. “The fairway is uphill, and while you can see how the landing area is framed by big trees, there is a mystery to the tee shot,” Pascuzzo says. “At the crest of the hill, there always is an anticipation of the reveal of what lies ahead on the other side. Few modern courses feature this design element. Here, you play to the middle of the hill, and then stay left, away from the bunkering with the second shot, to leave an easier approach to an elevated green.”
Contact: (805) 343-9459, www.monarchdunes.com
Waldorf Astoria, Par 4, 324 yards
Rees Jones is partial to this hole he created because of the challenges from any of the five sets of tees. “The hole presents a unique set of options off the tee,” Jones says. “The hole is a very short par 4, playing less than 300 yards from the white tees. Water protects the entire left side and rear of the hole. For the long hitter, the green is reachable from the tee, particularly since a ramp of fairway surrounds the lone frontal bunker. Playing out to the right is a safe tee shot producing a wedge into a green with distinct sections.”
Contact: (407) 597-3783, www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com
Coyote Springs, Par 4, 450 yards
Coyote Springs, Nevada
This hole utilizes one of the 11 lakes on the Jack Nicklaus signature course, but the water is more cosmetic, located mainly to the left of the four tee boxes. The real hazard is the waste bunkers on both sides of the narrow fairway. Golfers can try and cut off some of the distance with a long, well-placed tee shot down the left side that will get a little more roll as it filters down to a collection area. The green is severely undulating and has a bit of a false front. The middle of the green is in a small valley and features the easiest pin placements. Reaching a back pin can be a challenge.
Contact: (877) 742-8455, www.coyotesprings.com
Princeville (Prince), Par 5, 576 Yards
Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Original designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. oversaw a recently completed $5 million renovation, and he is excited at the changes to the course, especially this hole. “This is part of a tropical dream landscape for a golf course,” Trent Jones Jr. says. “This is a classic risk/reward hole. A slight dogleg right, it presents choices along the cliffs on the right. If you risk setting your line near the edge, you can reap the reward of prime position. However, if you veer too far off line, you can be lost.” The fairway slopes from left to right and balls in the middle to right funnel to the out of bounds.
Contact: 808-826-5001, www.princeville.com/golf
Osprey Meadows at Tamarack, Par 4, 383 yards
This is the shortest par 4 on the golf course, but it is certainly no pushover. There are 10 fairway bunkers that protect the right side so long hitters will think twice trying to get to the green off the tee. There is a collection area beyond the bunkers so balls that clear have the possibility of rolling onto the putting surface. The elevation of this course provides for longer drives, but don’t be tempted to go for the green in one. The wiser play is to take an iron off the tee and aim for the generous landing area that provides a good angle in for the second shot. There is a bunker that guards the left of the green that comes into play.
Contact: (208) 325-1000, www.tamarackidaho.com
Palmetto Dunes (Arthur Hills Course), Par 4, 380 yards
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
This is a visually intimidating hole from the tee box and due to the natural water hazard that was waiting for Hills when he began to build the hole. “It is a dogleg left and a canal running through the property set the routing,” Hills says. “One must play the course or see a plan of the hole to appreciate the challenge. The tee shot plays into a bowl. The player wants to keep the shot within the bowl. It is generous. The shot to the green plays over the canal to the green, which is small and lies along the water. The green is sloped to the water. Over the green puts the player in a hollow. Then the next shot is up and over the back of the green to a surface sloping away toward the water. The hole has angles, water and a pitched green.”
Contact: (866) 380-1778, www.palmettodunes.com
Chambers Bay, Par 5, 604 Yards
This finishing hole is quickly building up a history and tradition. Robert Trent Jones Jr. desired a course that could hold a national championship, and his work has been validated. “On this fescue highway to the home green, successfully navigating the sandy wastelands and bunkers means the work here has only just begun,” Trent Jones Jr. says. “Named 'Tahoma' in honor of a local landmark, this too, is a landmark hole, where the U.S. Open will crown a champion in 2015, and where the legendary 2010 U.S. Amateur semifinal match between David Chung and Byeong-Hun An was decided.”
Contact: (877) 295-4657, www.chambersbaygolf.com
—by John Reger
One of the greatest shots in Masters history wasn't enough to beat Bubba Watson, who outlasted Louis Oosthuizen in a two-hole playoff to become the third lefthander to win a Green Jacket. Watson earns his first major championship in his second major playoff after falling to Martin Kaymer in extra holes at the 2010 PGA Championship.
Watson was spectacular down the stretch of his final-round 68, draining four birdies in a row from 13-16. His short birdie putt on the par-3 16th drew him even with Oosthuizen, who was unable to match Bubba's par on the second playoff hole.
On a day that started out as an apparent coronation for a more famous Lefty, Phil Mickelson instead made an utter mess of the par-3 fourth hole, essentially ending his chances as his round was just getting started with a triple bogey.
That miscue, combined with Oosthuizen's stunning double eagle 2 at the par-5 second hole, seemed to stamp this Masters Sunday as belonging to the South African. But Watson, who was five behind when Oosthuizen's albatross found the cup, staged an Easter resurrection with some spectacular and imaginative play.
Fittingly, it was a remarkable approach from the pine straw at 10 during the playoff that gave Watson a routine two-putt par for the win. "I was there earlier today in regulation,” Watson said afterwards. “I hooked it 40 yards. I’m pretty good at hooking it."
"It was a great day,” Oosthuizen said. “We had a lot of fun. … I played well. This is not one where I felt like I played badly. Great stuff to (Bubba)." Great, indeed.
In honor of Fred Couples' turn-back-the-clock performance this week at The Masters, we look back at the classic moment of Couples' career: the 12th hole of the 1992 Masters.
Nursing a slim lead on Sunday, Couples comes to the diabolical par-3 12th, the scene of so many disasters, and narrowly averts one himself when his mis-clubbed tee shot somehow clings to the bank instead of trickling down into Rae’s Creek. Using a masterful chip shot, Couples saves par and goes on to beat Ray Floyd for his only major championship.