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'One of most important golf books I have [ever] published'

By John Strege

William Shinker, who recently stepped down as president and publisher of Gotham Books, has been perhaps golf literature's greatest advocate, a man responsible for publishing, by his estimation, 150 to 200 golf books in the course of his long and distinguished careeer.

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Few have resonated with him to the degree that his most recent offering, "Every Shot Counts," by Mark Broadie (on sale March 6), a book Shinker calls "one of the most important golf books that I have published in my 40-year career."

Broadie is a Columbia University professor who devised the strokes gained putting statistic used by the PGA Tour. Bill Fields in his Golf World feature on Broadie, called him "one of the game's intriguing thinkers" for his analytical approach to golf statistics and how they might improve a golfer's performance. Hence the subtitle to his book: "Using the revolutionary strokes gained approach to improve your golf performance and strategy."

"What Mark has done with golf in analyzing golf using data, this sort of scientific method and statistical analysis, as far as I'm concerned is totally unique," Shinker said. "He's able to explain it to people in a way that guys like you and I can understand.

"I published all of Dave Pelz's books. Dave is a mad scientist and a great guy. He bases everything he does on research. I did the 'Putting Bible' and 'Short Game Bible.' They are huge, long books, but they continue to sell, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of copies. I'd read about Mark, and when I saw the proprosal I knew that he could pull it off. The book is dense, but if you read it carefully, and follow it, it will help."

Shinker noted that some of Broadie's results "run counter to conventional wisdom," which is evident from the outset. The title of the first chapter is "Putting is Overrated: Why Conventional wisdom gets it wrong."

Related: Crunch Time

Shinker, incidentally, is not retiring. "I'll end up doing something," he said, "probably something in golf." Why, aside from his own interest in the game, has he published so many golf books?

"The maxim with sports books is, 'the smaller the ball, the better the book sells,'" Shinker told Publishers Weekly several years ago. "Golf is at the top of the list, followed by baseball, and that's no coincidence -- both have celebrated histories and long-established literary traditions. Golf's goes back 100 years, and its following is stronger today than ever."

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News & Tours

A shot away from that elusive number, Michael Allen settles for a record-tying 60

By Bill Fields

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Nobody said anything, but everybody knew.

As Michael Allen played his second nine at the Allianz Championship Friday afternoon, he was flirting with something special.  

Although eight golfers had shot 60 on the Champions Tour -- the first being Isao Aoki at the 1997 Emerald Coast Classic -- no one had gotten to golf's magic number, 59, which had been posted multiple times on the PGA and Web.com tours and once, by Annika Sorenstam, on the LPGA.

In the first round on the Old Course at Broken Sound, on a calm, warm day kind to scoring, Allen birdied his 14th hole to go 10 under. If he could play the last four holes in three under, he would join the elite 59 club. (He wasn't aware no one had done it on the Champions Tour.)

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The others in Allen's grouping, Tom Kite and Anders Forsbrand, went about there business.

"It's kind of like that perfect game in baseball," Allen said. "You don't talk about it. You kind of let the guy go sit in the corner."

He faced a 12-footer for birdie on the par-5 sixth, his 15th hole. He had watched Kite putt from a similar line. He knew the break. He knew the situation.

"I really kind of thought I had a chance to shoot 59 if I made that," Allen said. "First time that had ever entered my mind. I really knew the line. One of those ones you wish you had back. The pressure was off after I missed the putt on six. Just like my career, almost."

Still, what a day it was for the 55-year-old who has five Champions Tour victories. Allen birdied his 16th and 18th holes, the latter with a seven-foot putt, to join Aoki and the other seniors -- Walter Morgan, Bruce Fleisher, Jim Thorpe, Nick Price, Tom Purtzer, Craig Stadler and Jay Haas -- who have shot 60. Allen's is the first 12 under of the bunch.

Allen hit 11 fairways and 14 greens, and required only 22 putts. And when things are going well, they're going well.

Related: More from Bill Fields

On his 13th hole, Allen badly chunked a wedge approach from 85 yards. He skulled his 30-foot chip from in front of the green but it hopped into the hole for an unlikely birdie. "That's kind of where you know things are going pretty well for you," said Allen, whose 60 gave him a three-shot lead over Scott Dunlap, with Tom Lehman, Wes Short Jr. and Chien Soon Lu five behind.

"When you play a great round like this, it's easy -- it's not that hard," Allen said. "You're playing good shots and you're making putts. Shooting 70 or 72 when you're not playing well can be a struggle. Hopefully tomorrow I can have some of this feel."

Thriving in contention under pressure hasn't always been the easiest of positions for Allen, who won once on the European Tour but never on the PGA Tour. "I haven't led that many times," he said. "Out here [on the Champions Tour] I've been better. I've not been as bad. Out here, it's a great challenge, it's a lot of fun. Out there, I was scared if I was leading."

Related: Best Champions Tour players

In the final round of the 1993 Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill, he was T-8 and grouped with Tom Watson after 54 holes. Watson, his career full of cups and cash at that point, got a deservedly windy introduction on the first tee. "I literally took a seat," Allen said. "And then they [say], 'This is Mike, he's from Arizona.' That's not really a great feeling. You kind of know who you're with. That day didn't work out great for me." (He shot 75 to finish T-25.)

Allen knows the competitive window is closing for him. Hale Irwin being the biggest exception to the rule, most seniors don't make much of a mark in their late-50s and beyond. Because he uses a long putter with an anchored stroke, which will be illegal come 2016, Allen knows the confluence of the ban with the clock won't make things any easier.

"I realize I have a couple of good years left," Allen said. "No. 1, the [not being able to anchor the] putter is going to hurt me. Right now, I don't think I'm necessarily a much better putter with the long putter than the short putter, but coming down the stretch when it matters, I may not make 'em all, but I don't hit bad putts just 'cause  I'm all nervous. That will happen more with the short putter. And I'll be 57, 58. It's pretty much proven your time is short out here. I want to make it while I can."

For a day, Mike from Arizona was the toast of Florida, that much was certain.

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News & Tours

Tiger Woods still adamant his ball only 'oscillated'

By Bill Fields

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- PGA Tour official Slugger White on Friday said Tiger Woods "was a little disbelieving" at being penalized two strokes for an infraction after video appeared to show his ball moving ever so slightly downward as he touched a loose impediment near it during the second round of the BMW Championship.

On Saturday, Woods hadn't changed his mind.

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Tiger Woods walking off the second green during the third round of the BMW Championship. Photo: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

He said after a third-round 66 that he thought his ball behind the first green had only oscillated despite reviewing the footage multiple times.

"After seeing the video, I thought the ball just oscillated, and I thought that was it," Woods said Saturday after his round. "I thought that was the end of the story. But they saw otherwise. They replayed it again and again and again, and I felt the same way."

White, vice president of rules and competitions for the PGA Tour, said Friday that the footage shot by a PGA Tour Entertainment unit showed, "it's pretty clear that the ball did move." Woods maintained Saturday he still felt it did not change position.

Related: Jim Furyk shoots the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history

"We all have been in the trees before, and things can move and do move," Woods said. "And I felt like I tested it and felt like it just oscillated and stayed in the same position but evidently it didn't."

Seven shots behind leaders Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker starting the third round, Woods rallied into fifth place, four behind Furyk's 13-under 200 total after 54 holes.

"I fought back today, which was not easy to do," said Woods, for whom this was his third rules issue of the year, following an infraction in Abu Dhabi and an illegal drop during the second round of the Masters. "Today was a tough round, but I fought and got myself back within striking distance. There were a lot of thoughts going on last night, but the sun comes up in the east, and we start a new day.

"Today was going to be hard, just like Saturday at Augusta was hard," Woods continued. "When situations like that happen, I had to fight, and I fought my tail off today. And I'm very proud of that, and I got myself back in the tournament."

Steve Stricker, after a 64, is in second place at 201, followed by Snedeker at 202 and Zach Johnson at 203 in the third of four FedEx Cup playoff events.

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News & Tours

With history on the line, Furyk finally finishes strong

By Bill Fields

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- As wonderful a golfer as Jim Furyk has been, he has known all too well the feeling of letting a tournament slip from his grasp, like a glass of milk souring in his hands just before he could take a drink.

Pursuing one of golf's rarest feats -- its magic number -- Friday afternoon in the second round of the BMW Championship, however, Furyk seized the moment and became only the sixth golfer in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59.

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Jim Furyk sinks a birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish with a 59. Photo: Bill Fields

Furyk's was a 12-under gem at Conway Farms GC on a sunny, breezy day when the next best score was 65 and the field average was a fraction over par (71.026) as he assumed a share of the 36-hole lead with Brandt Snedeker.

For the wiry, feisty 43-year-old who counts the 2003 U.S. Open among 16 PGA Tour victories, it was a joyous, happy day that he ranked among his career highlights. It was a round in which he hit 14 of 14 fairways, 17 of 18 greens and required just 23 putts.

"Some days you look at putts and [you] can't visualize where they are," Furyk said. " 'Is it left edge or is it just out [of the hole]?' Today, I'd just look at a putt and say, 'It's a ball out.' I could draw the line and get lined up, and a lot of them went in."

Related: Jim Furyk shoots the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history

The putt that took Furyk into the history books was a three-foot birdie putt on his 18th hole (the par-4 ninth) after hitting a 103-yard gap wedge. Before he putted, a spectator yelled, "Jimmy, I'll give it to you." Furyk acknowledged the man with a smile and wave, then called on the memory of a similar putt that he made, on the 72nd hole of the 2010 Tour Championship when he won the event and the FedEx Cup.

"It reminded me of the putt to win the FedEx Cup exactly," Furyk said. "It was probably just a touch longer and it was almost the same putt -- a little downhill slider left-to-right. I always try to [recall] times when I've done something well, and it was like, hell, I knocked that one in. It's the same putt, it's left-center, just hit it solid and see what happens. I don't really remember even striking the putt or what it felt like when it left the putter or anything."

Furyk broke 60 despite a bogey on his 14th hole, becoming the first PGA Tour 59-shooter (Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby are the others, while Annika Sorenstam did it on the LPGA Tour) to have a blemish on his scorecard. After the three-putt, though, he rebounded with an 11-foot putt two holes later to get back to 11 under for the day and bring 59 back into play.

He played his first nine in eight-under 28, boosted by a hole-out eagle with a 9-iron on the par-4 15th hole. Furyk jarred the approach moments after talking with fellow competitor Gary Woodland about having been in Tiger Woods' grouping the time he holed out on the 15th hole at Pebble Beach during a frenetic comeback victory at the 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"Literally within the next two minutes, he holes it," Woodland said. "It was impressive. He was in the zone today. It's the greatest round I've ever seen. He drove the ball unbelievably. He rolled the ball. He managed that golf course better than anything I've ever seen."

Furyk did it with veteran caddie Mike (Fluff) Cowan alongside. For Cowan, who has caddied on Tour since 1976, it was like working for Peter Jacobsen in the final round of the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club, only better. "Peter shot 64 the last day and we started that day with seven straight 3s," Cowan said. "He had it about 12 feet on No. 8 and missed. That was pretty efficient. But this is 59."

Related: Jim Furyk's swing sequence

During on a 10-minute wait on their 17th hole, Woodland and Furyk killed the time by talking about wedges and pro football, Woodland razzing the veteran about his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Although Furyk failed to birdie the par-5, the chat relaxed him.

"I was kind of smiling when I was getting ready to hit my drive," Furyk said. "I actually quit thinking about trying to shoot 59, which was a good thing really."

In addition to dealing with disappointing losses at the 2012 U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and losing a tough singles match at the 2012 Ryder Cup, as well as getting beaten by Jason Dufner at the 2013 PGA Championship, Fuyrk arrived at the BMW having not been chosen by Fred Couples as a captain's pick for the United States Presidents Cup team. It will be the first time in 15 years Furyk hasn't played for an American squad in an international match.

"I was bummed about it, but I'm not really a spiteful person," Furyk said. "I didn't go out there with a chip on my shoulder to prove anything to anyone this week. I feel like my career has spoken for itself."

Thanks to a round for the ages it shouted on Friday, and, out of character, the business-like Furyk was going to savor his accomplishment.

"I'm going to try to enjoy this," he said. "I'm not a smell-the-roses type of guy, but how many times am I going to shoot 59 in my life? I'm going to enjoy this one a little bit tonight, and I'll have a big, fat smile on my face when I go to bed."

If Furyk didn't sleep well, it wouldn't be because he was worried about how he was playing.

When a reporter mentioned to Cowan that Furyk's score might well have been a 58, the longtime looper said softly, "Fifty-nine will do."

Yes it will.

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News & Tours

Why Luke Donald may have an edge at mysterious Conway Farms GC

By Bill Fields

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Tiger Woods seldom plays a tournament on an unfamiliar course, but that is the case at this week's BMW Championship.

As it is to most of the 70-man field, Conway Farms GC, a 1991 Tom Fazio design, is new turf to the five-time PGA Tour winner in 2013.

Woods, who enters the third of four FedEx Cup Playoff events No. 2 in the points standings behind Henrik Stenson, had a particularly purposeful pro-am round Wednesday at the first-time BMW site.

"I normally don't work this hard in a pro-am, but I had to do a little bit of work because I wasn't out here yesterday," Woods said. "It helps that [caddie] Joey [LaCava] has been out here a couple of days getting the lines."

The line on Conway Farms?

Related: Will Tiger Woods win his third FedEx Cup?

Birdies could flow like beer at a Cubs' game on a hot summer afternoon if the wind doesn't blow too hard after a cold front moves through -- starting Friday, highs are forecast to only be in the 60s after a spell of steamy weather.

Jordan Spieth doesn't believe the scoring will be as low as it was at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where Stenson won at 22 under, not that even par is likely going to be a very valuable currency.

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Luke Donald is one of the few players this week familiar with the course.

"We know we've got some easier holes out there, and if you drive the ball well, you're going to have a lot of 8-iron on down, and those are some scoring clubs," Woods said. "There's a lot of funneling where you can get to some of these pins. You don't have to fire it right at the flag, you can funnel it in there. You can get the ball pretty stiff. Yeah, the scores are going to be low."

Zach Johnson is in the minority of players who have seen Conway Farms prior to this week, having played in the 1997 NCAA Championship on the 7,216-yard, par 71 course. (It also has hosted the 1998 U.S. Junior Amateur, 2009 Western Amateur and 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur.)

"I remember it being phenomenal then," said Johnson. "I hadn't played many courses of this stature at that point. But it's good. It's matured a little bit since then. Typically you see big greens out of Tom [Fazio], but these greens are not very big, [they are] quadrant-like, and I think it's going to be a good test."

Johnson's knowledge of the course pales compared to that of Luke Donald, a Conway Farms member for a decade who refers to himself as the "semi-host" of the tournament. Donald, who first played the layout as a Northwestern golfer, could use a great week because he comes in at 54th in the FedEx Cup standings.

"I think [for] someone who was at the pinnacle of the game not too long ago and is now 54th on the FedEx Cup, it's been disappointing," said Donald, who recently changed swing coaches from Pat Goss to Chuck Cook. "It's been very hard this year.

One golfer who will be coming in cold for Thursday's first round is Phil Mickelson, who withdrew from the pro-am, citing personal reasons, and was expected to arrive in Chicago Wednesday evening in advance of his 11:59 a.m. CDT first-round tee time. (PGA Tour players can miss two pro-ams a year without sanctions.)

Steve Stricker, whose season won't come to an end this week after all -- he is not going to pass up next week's Tour Championship to go elk hunting -- believes Conway Farms is a straight-forward exam. "There's really no tricks to it," he said. "What you see is what you get."

Related: 9 Pricey Moments From Last Year's Playoffs

No. 8 in FedEx Cup points, Stricker had talked about skipping the Tour Championship, but one of only three golfers -- Mickelson and Hunter Mahan are the others -- to finish inside the top 30 each of the previous six FedEx Cups had a change of heart after a conversation with wife Nicki following a runner-up finish at the Deutsche Bank.

"It's our marquee event," Stricker said. "It's the Super Bowl of our year, and for me to just kind of say, you know what, I'm in the top 10, I'm not coming -- to walk away from that I think would have been foolish."

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News & Tours

With record day, Chappell continues to shine in 2013

By Bill Fields

kevin-chappell.jpgJERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Kevin Chappell credits having put more order into his golf life as a big reason his 2013 PGA Tour season has been so much better than the previous one, when he finished 125th on the money list and barely kept his card.

No doubt the input of coaches Mark Blackburn (full swing) and James Sieckmann (short game) -- as well as that of Chappell's fiancee, Elizabeth Petrie -- played a part in the 27-year-old's course-record, nine-under 62 at Liberty National GC Saturday in the third round of The Barclays.

The 62 eclipsed by one stroke the mark Keegan Bradley established just one day prior, and vaulted Chappell into good position to jockey for his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday.

In addition to the instruction from trusted mentors, an impromptu trip with Petrie on the eve of The Barclays -- the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs -- to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City has figured in Chappell's strong play across the water from Manhattan.

A visit to the emotional site, which honors the thousands of people killed in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center a dozen years ago, was a reminder to Chappell about keeping his playing career in perspective.

"It just really puts golf in its place," Chappell -- who has been a longtime volunteer for Special Olympics -- said of spending time at the 9/11 Memorial. "It seems to be whenever I get too caught up or too emotional about my game, life hits me hard. That was was a great experience and a learning one for me, and it kind of tightened my screws mentally."

Related: Get to know Kevin Chappell

Starting his third round at No. 10, Chappell shot three-under 32 on his opening nine Saturday, then turned it on with birdies at Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8. "I had a chip-in and then I just really holed all the putts that you kind of expect to hole that you don't always hole a lot of 10-, 12-footers to make birdies. [I] just was able to keep doing it."

Chappell has been practicing hard on his putting with Sieckmann, working on "repetition, seeing the ball go in the hole." Chappell said, "I've just been hitting putts from three, six, nine, feet, different spots around the hole. Broke down the stats on what the average on tour would be, and then the goal that day is to beat the average."

The former UCLA golfer finished second at the Memorial Tournament this year, but instead of building on that result, he started pressing. Chappell's best finish in six tournaments since being runner-up at Muirfield Village was T-28 at the AT&T National.

"Since Memorial, I felt like my game was pretty good, and I felt like being that close to winning there, I really felt my time was coming," Chappell said. "I was close, and probably added some pressure from those thoughts. [It] didn't allow me to play the game the way that I know I can. My game's been pretty poor since Canada. We'll see."

It is hard to back up a great round with another great round, but Chappell's 62 was exactly what he needed "to get right back in the golf tournament" and give him an opportunity to soar from 58th place in FedEx Cup points.

However lively the scene is at Liberty National Sunday afternoon, Chappell carries a much different memory of going to the 9/11 Memorial.

"It's such a sobering experience," he said. "It's eerily quiet in that area for such a large city, and just to see the amount of people that you see there, all feeling the same thing. It's not too often that you get to see a group of strangers [that] have the same emotion. At least that's what it felt to me while I was there."

Chappell and Petrie are getting married Sept. 28. If he can break through Sunday, it would be quite the early wedding present.

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News & Tours

A maiden major title has Jason Dufner hungry for more

By Bill Fields

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- In Jason Dufner's theory of the PGA Tour, the competitive weather is seldom clear.

"I call it one percent or two percent sunshine," he says, "and the rest of the time it's raining out here."

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Dufner goes meteorological to keep his job in perspective. Most golfers rarely win. A bad week might not be blue skies, but it can't be taken as a funnel cloud either.

Related: 19 things you should know about Jason Dufner

"You can get down out here with how you play and [you] can have some low times, he said. "Then you start looking at other guys and realizing there are low points for everybody."

The lows make the highs all the more special, and Dufner is coming off the best tournament of his golf life -- the 36-year-old's impressive victory in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill CC. After a week off at home in Auburn, Ala., he returns to action Thursday at Liberty National GC in the Barclays, the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, a first-time major champion and new pet owner but, he says, as the same 'ol Duf.

"There's been some demand for my time with media and we have gotten some opportunities for some tournaments after the Playoffs and stuff like that," Dufner said, "[but] as far as me personally, nothing's changed. I still took the trash out on Tuesday morning. We got a new puppy so I was up at 3 in the morning every night taking him out to the bathroom, and [I'm] still going to my favorite breakfast spot in town."

Dufner had coincidentally changed his cellphone number prior to the PGA, but congratulations of all stripes have gotten through, including from former fellow Auburn athletes Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson. When Dufner arrived at Liberty National Tuesday, there was a new wave of well wishers.

"When I came out yesterday, a lot of people that I had not seen were congratulatory, and people seemed genuinely happy for me I guess," Dufner said.

Related: A frame-by-frame look at Dufner's swing

The low-key Dufner walked into the media interview room at the Barclays Wednesday morning carrying a backpack -- "I've got all my money in there," he joked afterward -- but not appearing weighed down by his fresh achievement. He is the 133rd man with a single professional major championship (77 others have won two or more), but what occurred in upstate New York has him interested in becoming part of the latter camp, among other things.

"I think winning one has made me a little hungrier to be competitive, to win more events, more majors, be part of the Ryder Cup team, part of the Presidents Cup team," Dufner said. "I'm pretty good at thinking ahead and moving forward. Maybe in this case, I haven't enjoyed what I did a couple of weeks ago as much as maybe some other people would, which I'm hoping to do down the road. But I'm so focused on what's next."

What might the long-range forecast be for Dufner's game the rest of the year and beyond?

It is a big deal to win a major. "Majors are hyped up," said Bill Haas, who is still looking for one. "Over the years they have become a big deal and a status measure among us pros -- you know, 'He's won a major, he's next level.' I do think that's warranted. I do think they are that much harder to win."

The test for Dufner, who had only two previous PGA Tour victories before breaking through at Oak Hill, will be to build on his accomplishment in a positive way without unnecessary complications.

"I made the mistake of putting added pressure on myself to kind of live up to it," 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize said a quarter century after winning his lone major title. "I thought, 'OK, you win this major and you're thinking you have to take it to the next step.' But what's the next step? You just won a major You don't need to make any changes."

As two-time major champion Curtis Strange once said, "You're not a different player the Monday after [winning a major] than you were the Monday before."

Related: The week in golf includes Dufner's wedding day music video

Dufner certainly doesn't need to be a different ball-striker after Oak Hill. His challenge remains on the greens, where, as he showed at the PGA, he can be yippy.

"Putting is something that I definitely need to get better at," said Dufner, who starts the Playoffs ranked 162nd on tour in strokes gained/putting. "Putting has been tough for me this year. Last year [80th] was good. Maybe the PGA win will give me a lot of confidence going forward with it and free me up a little bit."

As his encore begins, Dufner will find out soon enough.

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News & Tours

Working on his game never gets old for Pavin

By Bill Fields

130713-corey-pavin.jpgOMAHA, Neb. -- Golfers get old. The search for the secret never does.

After signing his scorecard after the third round of the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha CC, where he shot a three-under 67, David Frost stood outside the clubhouse, swinging an imaginary club while watching his reflection in a window behind him.

A swing. Another. A pause.

He went to his bag. With driver in hand, he did a slow-motion takeaway, checking his positions. He did it again. Once more. Now, he could eat lunch.

Frost is 53 years old. How many times do you think he has self-diagnosed his swing in a window or a mirror or a shiny car door?

Minutes earlier Corey Pavin had stood 50 feet away, on a riser with a microphone next to a country club pool that looked very inviting on a hot afternoon. He talked about his third-round 64 that had put him very much in contention at four-under 206 after 54 holes.

Related: Excitement high in Omaha for U.S. Senior Open

Following a disappointing 73 in the second round, Pavin had gone to the range. He found something.

"It was a very different day from yesterday. I really struggled yesterday," Pavin said. "I went out on the range and worked on it. Found a little key to help me with my swing."

What he worked on wasn't much different from what he has worked on during a lifetime in golf.

We learn. We forget. We learn something else. Or the same-old, a different way. Even the best.

"I've been working on trying to get the club more inside [on the backswing]," Pavin said. "I've been doing that for 40 years and I'm still working on it. I was getting a little bit outside. I wasn't turning as well as I should have.

"So I was just basically trying to make my initial move a little bit more inside with the clubhead. There's different ways for me to do it, and I always try different types of ideas. Yesterday was a little bit different type of one, and it seemed to work today."

Decades ago, before Pavin was even born, Gary Player was concerned his swing was too flat. He had a chance to talk to Ben Hogan. "You can't be too flat," the legend told the future legend. The young South African believed the experienced American.

Related: Tom Watson keeps grinding

Player is one of only seven golfers to have won a U.S. Open and a U.S. Senior Open, the others being Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Orville Moody, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin.

Pavin, who won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 1995, has himself in position to become the eighth in some fast company. He had no bogeys and six birdies Saturday, including one on the 477-yard eighth hole, where he hit driver, 3-wood to eight feet and sank the putt. "That was the first day I could reach it in two," he said, "so that was nice." Pavin has never overpowered a course, and never will, but has made a career making more out less.

"The thing that's hard about here on the Champions Tour is that most of the guys have won a lot of tournaments," Pavin said. "So you don't see a lot of backing up on Sunday, at least not in the regular tournaments. The competition is tough. We're all friends. We've known each other a long time. Once we all get out there on the golf course, we all know what we're trying to do, and that's to win."

Pavin will need another fine day in the final round to have a chance of catching Michael Allen. Kenny Perry, who also followed up a 73 with a 64, stands with Fred Funk between Pavin and the leader. The long-hitting Kentuckian credited a pre-round fix of his own for his fine play, a self-tip -- to stay more centered over the ball rather than overshifting on the backswing -- that keeps his patented draw from becoming a poisoning hook.

"Today, I tried to post up more on my left side, keep my head on the golf ball and eliminate the bigger hook," a pleased Perry said. "It still draws, but I don't pull hook. And I drove it beautifully. I was just on the range trying to find something to get me through the round after I hit it so poorly yesterday."

Tweak. Excel. Hope.

"Keep my fingers crossed and hopefully it will work tomorrow," Pavin said.

That's golf, even for the best.

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News & Tours

Tom Watson keeps grinding, as only he can

By Bill Fields

OMAHA -- Tom Watson's bright green shirt looked like Scotland 1977, but his legs felt like Nebraska 2013.

"These hills are getting my legs, I have to admit," he said. "The legs aren't firing, they're a little weak."

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Walking the steep slopes of Omaha CC Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open clad in nearly the color he wore when he outdueled Jack Nicklaus in the final round at Turnberry in that epic British Open, Watson didn't need to be reminded he will turn 64 in less than two months.

Related: Why we should remember Johnny Goodman this week

He didn't strike his irons crisply, didn't make much happen with the putter. But if you think he was a hopeless, aging legend taking up space, think again. Watson shot an even-par 70, just three strokes behind the best scores (Jay Don Blake and Jeff Sluman) shot Thursday morning.

Watson remains struck by how much his astounding near-victory at Turnberry in the 2009 British Open when he was 59 meant to people of a certain age, when he told them possibility doesn't have to wrinkle. To watch him now is to still be inspired.

"He's grinding," Watson's caddie, Neil Oxman, had said along the eighth fairway as he waited for the five-time British Open champion to drive on the 469-yard par 4. "He always grinds."

Give your best on a shot. Get ready for the next one. Accept the good breaks and bad breaks in the same spirit. Repeat, until the round is done. Then do it again the next day.

That is what Watson has done on the job for 40 years. That is what keeps him doing his job today. That, and the rare tenacity of a champion.

For a putting stroke that has been sick off and on for a quarter of a century -- ugly-yippy even at times -- Watson's cure has been to keep on keeping on. A more forgiving putterhead design than that with which he ran the tables in the 1970s and early-1980s has been his only concession. He hasn't clawed, hasn't cross-handed, hasn't bellied or broomsticked.

Related: Tom Watson's key for more power

He was in a first-round grouping with Colin Montgomerie (oversize grip) and Bernhard Langer (long anchored putter). Watson, as ever, putted conventionally.

"You got it right. Stubborn. Exactly right," Watson said. "I just keep on trying to do what I used to know how to do. I try to remember and try to do the things I used to be able to do. And it's a struggle sometimes. With the putter particularly, it's been a struggle for a long time."

When Watson plays with a Champions Tour rookie like Montgomerie, who just turned 50, it's a mental post-it note of the clock to go with the putting nerves and the muscles aches.

"I start thinking about 13 years difference, yeah. The rookies out here now are quite a bit younger than I am," Watson said. "They've got the power . That's something I'm going to find I'm going to lose more and more of. Every now and then I can crack it out there. But the consistency is not there now. That's what I'm looking for is that consistency."

To the 50-year-old who was not enjoying Omaha CC's hills either, despite bettering Watson's score by a shot, it was still pretty impressive. "Amazing," Mongomerie said. "Fantastic effort. Good home support for him. I think he's quite close [to home]. I think Kansas is the next state down. Flatter, I believe, in Kansas. So we should have played there. Good golf for Tom. Sixteen pars for nearly 64 years old."

Watson will go from Nebraska to Scotland, for another British Open at Muirfield. "He has every chance to do well again, as he did at Turnberry in 2009," Montgomerie said.

"He's just being nice," said Watson, who had more immediate concerns.

Related: Tom Watson and other U.S. Ryder Cup captains remembered

He was off the practice range, a place he has known as intimately as any golfer ever has.

"I'll go the practice range and see," Watson said. "The swing's not very easy right now. I don't know whether I'm moving my head or not making a very good turn. I've got a couple of ideas. If they don't work, I'll go home, take a nap, I'll think about it, come back tomorrow, practice before I play, try something else and see if that works. That's the way I've always worked."

To his golf mind, it is closer to 1977 than 2013.

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News & Tours

Excitement high in Omaha as U.S. Senior Open comes to town

By Bill Fields

OMAHA -- When the Champions Tour is at its best, the formula is no different from special events on other tours: Good course plus good galleries equals a tournament that feels as if it matters.

That would describe the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha CC, a surprisingly hilly, interesting track in Nebraska's largest city, which is enthusiastically embracing the championship. 

Not since the 1999 U.S. Senior Open in Des Moines has the event been such the talk of the host town. Crowds won't approach the nearly 200,000 spectators that turned out in Iowa, but there will be a throng come Thursday's first round.

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(photo by Getty Images)

"I don't think we'll get to the size of galleries in Des Moines, but I think this will be second best," said Tim Flaherty, U.S. Senior Open senior championship director. "[We're] expecting over 150,000 here for the week."

And early returns seem to support that prediction, with eight-thousand fans attending Monday's practice round.

"It's phenomenal," said 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer on Wednesday. "There's so many people out there. I haven't signed this many autographs since the Masters in April."


To sign a scorecard as the winner come Sunday evening, a player will not only have to had produced the repertoire of shots that an Open (even the elder version) requires. He will have to still be walking sprightly on a rolling piece of Middle America terrain that has surprised many with its elevation changes. 

Kenny Perry, coming off a win at the Constellation Senior Players Championship, felt the effects on his problematic left knee walking the course Tuesday. "I had a lot of problems just walking," Perry said Wednesday. "There's a lot of steep descents out there from the tee box down to the fairway. That really aggravated my left knee. I was feeling a lot of pressure, a lot of pain, and that had me concerned. I told somebody yesterday this is probably the hardest walking course I've ever been on. It's the hilliest, just very demanding. Some of the courses we play are pretty hilly, but you get some good shuttle cart rides from the green to the next [tee]. You don't get none of that here."


With most holes featuring uphill approach shots -- half a dozen of them to greens with tricky false fronts -- the par-70 course plays longer than its 6,711 scorecard yardage. Although there are a couple of petite par 4s (Nos. 13 and 17), No. 8 is a 477-yard brute playing gradually uphill. No. 3 is a 230-yard par 3. Golfers with Perry's length will have an advantage -- if they keep it in the fairway. 

"The rough is as bad as I've seen it anywhere in the world," Langer said, "worse than anywhere in the world, I mean. We played with a few other players, and sometimes we couldn't see the ball from three feet away. You know it went right in here, and you're looking, and you're walking from here to there, and you can't see the ball. That tells you how much it's sitting down. I've hit a couple of shots out of there, and some of the lies, I couldn't move it more than 25, 30 yards, hitting it as hard as I can. So it's just very demanding off the tee."


"This rough is as tough a rough as I've ever played, it really is," concurred Tom Watson, who at 63 is still looking for his first U.S. Senior Open title. 

Players will get a bit of a break when it comes to the greens. Because of the intense summer heat, the small putting surfaces might have to be kept a bit softer and will be more receptive than the USGA might like. "I think you'll see some pretty decent scores because of the greens being softer," Watson said. "But the golf course is a true test. The key here is putting the ball in the fairway off the tee." 

Asked to predict a winning score, Fred Couples said if someone would give him eight-under 272, he would go his room and watch television for four days while the rest of the field walked the hills. 

He might not be the only one. 

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