The Local Knowlege

Throwback Thursday

Recalling that time Gary McCord was banned from the Masters (Oh, and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs)

Twenty years ago, two noteworthy golf-related events overlapped. CBS announcer Gary McCord was banned from covering the Masters and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs. The two shared the spotlight (sort of) on the September 2, 1994 cover of Golf World:

blog-tiger-gw-cover-mccord-0828.jpg

Both were important for different reasons. We'll start with Woods, who made a lot of history that week at TPC Sawgrass. The 18-year-old Californian became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur as well as the first golfer to win the tournament in addition to winning the U.S. Junior.

Related: Augusta National's unwritten rules

Woods also made the biggest comeback in the history of the event, rallying from six down in the final match to Trip Kuehne. In the cover photo, Woods reacts to making a 14-foot birdie putt on TPC Sawgrass' famed 17th hole -- the 35th hole of the match -- to take his first lead of the day. 

The thrilling victory gave Woods his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs (he won three straight U.S. Juniors from 1991-1993), an accomplishment that might trump anything he's done as a pro. But Woods nearly didn't have a chance to make that putt when his tee shot on the island green landed about a foot from the water, but spun back to stay dry. 

"That was divine intervention," said Ernie Kuene, Trip's dad and caddie, in Brett Avery's story for the magazine. "And (Tiger's) had it for three years."

Related: Tiger and Sean consciously uncouple and Win McMurry's ice bucket fail

Whatever you want to call it, it's fair to say Woods had a better week than McCord. In that same issue, Golf World reported CBS confirmed the broadcaster would not be allowed to participate in the following year's Masters telecast. No one at Augusta National commented in the story, but Susan Kerr, then CBS director of programming, said the network's decision was made because Masters officials "were not comfortable with his style." 

The reported quotes that got McCord in trouble? Saying "there are some body bags down there if that keeps going," when a ball was rolling toward a water hazard, and joking that "bikini wax" is used to make Augusta National's greens so slick. The incident seems minor, but it was another example of the immense power the club wields. Two decades later, CBS still televises the Masters, but McCord, still an otherwise vital part of the network's golf broadcasts, remains banned from being part of the coverage.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

"There's no going back in time. That's who I am. That's what I did," McCord said in an interview with USA Today last year.

There's no going back in time for Tiger, either -- but it's fun to look back. Draining a clutch putt to win a huge tournament? That's who he was. That's what he did. Twenty years later, it's just as impressive.

... Read
News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That time Ben Hogan helped start what is now the Web.com Tour

By Alex Myers

This week marks the 25th time the Web.com Tour has stopped in Wichita -- one of four sites that will celebrate its silver anniversary on the PGA Tour's developmental tour this season. Of course, it wasn't known as the Web.com Tour in 1990.

Before the website design company acquired naming rights in June 2012, there was the Nationwide Tour, which followed the Buy.com Tour, which came after the Nike Tour. But it all started with Ben Hogan.

Related: Ben Hogan's timeless tips

The golf legend and his equipment company partnered with the PGA Tour to create a satellite tour in 1990. Here's a photo of Hogan and then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman at a Jan. 4, 1990, press conference in Fort Worth, Tex., announcing the new tour's creation and a 30-event schedule for that year.

blog-hogan-beman-0619.jpg

And here's a video put together by the Web.com Tour of early footage, including that press conference, wins in 1990 by Tom Lehman and Jeff Maggert, and Beman hitting the ceremonial tee shot at the tour's first event in Bakersfield, Calif.

"I want to play a big part in it. And I'll be going to some of these tournaments myself, not playing of course, but just to be there," a 77-year-old Hogan said.

In addition to being a business venture for Hogan, the new tour also meant a lot to a man who struggled for years as a professional golfer before making it big. The schedule was devised in a way that pros could drive from tournament to tournament, a throwback to the way Hogan and his contemporaries traveled.

This May 7, 1990 article in Sports Illustrated by Steve Rushin dives into the nomadic lifestyle of players on the Ben Hogan Tour during its first season. "The idea is to move up or move out," a 25-year-old John Kernohan told Rushin.

Related: The best Web.com Tour grads of all time

Nearly 25 years later, the goal of a Web.com Tour player is the same: Earn a PGA Tour card. And the tour's role in doing that has increased with the top 25 money earners getting full status on golf's biggest stage for the following season -- up from only five during the Ben Hogan Tour days.

Rewarding more people for toiling an entire year in relative obscurity? Something tells us the man who helped start it all and spent countless hours "digging his swing out of the dirt" would approve.

... Read
News & Tours

That time I made a complete ass of myself to Loren Roberts at Colonial

By Sam Weinman

Do you remember that Kenny Perry won the 2003 Colonial? I didn't until I looked it up this morning. I was at that tournament, and in hindsight, I vaguely recall Perry winning in what was a resurgent season for the veteran. But 11 years later, I think we all more likely recall that year's Colonial for Annika Sorenstam's historic two rounds playing on the PGA Tour

The concept of a player other than the event winner hijacking a tournament storyline isn't uncommon in golf. We remember that tournament where Michelle Wie made her professional debut and got DQed because of a bad drop, but we don't remember that (fittingly) Sorenstam was the winner. We remember the time Jean Van de Velde coughed up the Open Championship, but you might need a moment to recall that Paul Lawrie was the benefactor.

loren-roberts-350.jpg
But back to that year's Colonial. There was no bigger story in golf in 2003 than Sorenstam, the unequivocal star of the LPGA, testing herself against the men. And as reporters on the scene, our job that week was to try to put it all in its proper perspective.

So there I was, and there was then 47-year-old Loren Roberts. Nice guy, thoughtful quote. Great putter. Roberts was one of more than a dozen players I interviewed that week about Sorenstam, how she might fare and the historical implications of her appearance.

We were standing by the practice green and at some point I introduced the premise (a prescient one, it turns out) that years from now, all we'd remember about this tournament is Sorenstam playing in it. Then to underscore my point, I continued.

"It's really like when Tiger made his pro debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in '96," I said.

Roberts nodded.

"I mean, everyone remembers Tiger that week. But does anyone even remember who won?" I said. "Do YOU?"

"Yes," Roberts said. Then he smiled. "I did."

"Oh," I said, blood rushing to my face. "Right."

... Read
Celebrity

Throwback Thursday: When you shoot 66 on the 17th at Sawgrass, you don't mind seeing the pros find the water

By Ryan Herrington

loop-angelo-spagnolo-headshot.jpgIn 1985, Pittsburgh-area grocer Angelo Spagnolo earned the distinction from Golf Digest of being named America's Worst Avid Golfer after shooting a 257 on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, including carding a 66 on island-green 17th, in a competition with three other similarly high-handicappers. Spagnolo, 60, and now retired, turned the experience into a cottage industry of sorts, and wrote an autobiography about his golf career. He discussed the infamous round and its aftermath in a Q&A for Golf Digestix.


In your prime you had the equivalent of a 52-handicap and played 30 rounds a year. How much golf are you playing now?
When I hit 50, I started to have a lot of injuries, rotator cuff surgeries, carpel tunnel, a cervical fusion. Unfortunately, I think swinging a golf club 18,000 times or so caused them. If I get in a dozen rounds this year, I'll be fortunate.


Will you watch the Players this week or are the memories too painful?
I love to watch it. Although when I get to No. 17, I guess I don't feel bad when I see an occasional ball go in the water there. That hole really had it out for me to say the least.


loop-angelo-spagnolo-17hole-300.jpgOn the 17th, you hit several shots in the water and eventually putted your way on to the green, even hitting on in the water that way. Did you ever think you might not finish the hole?
You know, I think I was in like a coma. I lost all contact with reality. I was looking across the water and it seemed like the English Channel to me. (The photo is Spagnolo trying to hit the green after taking one of his several drops). At one point my caddie mentioned putting, and I said, 'What are you crazy? I want to get on the way you're supposed to get on.' I finally gave in, but it was the most humiliating thing I've ever done.


Given your struggles playing the game, why did you stick with it?
My job was stressful. So when I went I went out to play golf, I just relished the time I was out on the golf course. And even though I was playing bad, because a lot of times I didn't have the time to work on my game or practice, just being out there with my friends in a golf league was exactly what I needed. There was nothing greater than that for me. And no matter how bad I was playing nobody was going to tell me not to golf any more because I loved it too much.


Ever have any instructors volunteer to help you out to get better?
After I became the Worst Avid Golfer, Golf Digest sent all four finalists to its golf school. I had a chance to work for a week with Peter Kostis, Dick Altman, Jack Lumpkin, all these luminaries in golf instruction. I'll never forget the first day I was there, Davis Love II asked me to hit a couple balls. I take a couple typical swings and he says to me, really nice and gentlemanly, he says "How committed to that grip are you?" And I was like, "Whatever you want to change. What I've been doing obviously isn't helping." Obviously I had developed such bad habits over the year it took a long time.


Did you mind the Worst Avid Golfer label?
After the whole thing happened, and I got worldwide attention, I had a chance to play in a lot of events and meet a lot of people I just wouldn't have met before. Being philosophical about it, it was like the game of golf rewarded me for sticking with it even though you could have argued you didn't belong on a golf course you were terrible. And through various charity events, I've been a part of raising about $1 million. That's pretty rewarding. I had a lady come up to me one day in my store, and her husband said, "You know I can't believe you're that bad. Nobody could be playing golf that bad." And his wife elbows him in the stomach and she says, "Don't you get it, he was given a bunch of lemons and made lemonade into it." I never forgot that. It was a good saying because that's really what we did.

... Read
News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That time Arnold Palmer won on Jack Nicklaus' cozy new course

By Sam Weinman

Imagine if a new Tiger Woods-designed golf course opened in time to host a PGA Tour event, which was then won by Phil Mickelson.

arnold-palmer-1969.jpg
That was roughly the dynamic in 1969, when Harbour Town Golf Links hosted its first Heritage Classic. While it was primarily a Pete Dye project, the South Carolina course on Hilton Head Island was hailed for the involvement of Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear was touted as Dye's "design consultant" when the first Heritage was played over Thanksgiving weekend in 1969.

Best of all, the winner of that first Heritage was a 40-year-old Arnold Palmer, who hadn't won a PGA Tour event in more than a year, but who was energized by the challenge of playing his rival's new course.


Since late August (Palmer) has been doing 50 sit-ups every morning and 50 sit-ups every evening for the old hip hurt, and he was in a very pleasant frame of mind about his golf -- almost as if he had reconciled himself to the fact it would all come back sooner or later if he only stopped pressing so hard and worrying about it.

Finally, however, he was fired up about playing on Jack's course, and on a course that he wasn't supposed to be able to play well.

That was the other thing about Harbour Town. As much as we think of it today as this charming, throwback venue, it actually had the same reputation when it opened. Even by 1969 standards, Harbour Town at 6,700 yards was confining for PGA Tour players, cozy enough to negate the power advantage held by the likes of Palmer and Nicklaus.

Although Nicklaus downplayed his involvement in the course's design -- he said he contributed "1 percent" -- he was adamant about it suiting a wider base of players. 

"If there is one thing I didn't want this course to be," Nicklaus told Charles Price in the November 25, 1969 issue of Golf World, "it was a course that appeared to have been designed for my game. For every long par-4 hole, there is a short one to offset it."

Maybe Nicklaus was being magnanimous, or perhaps he had a more selfish goal in mind. As Jenkins wrote, "Nicklaus was accused of having designed a course that is thoroughly un-suited to his own game, Jack being a big hitter who likes some room. 'You've built a course for you to practice the talent shots on,' someone told him."

The practice eventually paid off. Six years later, Nicklaus claimed his sole win at "his" cozy, little course.


Enhanced by Zemanta
... Read
News & Tours

When a "walk-off" performance meant something else for Tiger Woods

By Alex Myers

A bad back has dominated any Tiger Woods talk of late, but a "walk-off" performance used to refer to something much different than a WD for TW. Woods' clutch play throughout his career has produced numerous "walk-off" winning putts on the final hole, and nowhere has he pulled that off more than at Bay Hill.

Related: Does Tiger WD at an unusually high rate?

Woods pulled out of this year's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but those memories remain. Let's take a look, um, back.

In 2001, Woods arrived at Bay Hill in a bit of a "slump" despite having won the final three majors the previous season. He was (gasp!) winless in his first five events before arriving at Bay Hill (remember the days he used to play five events before Bay Hill?), but got on a roll that included him capping the Tiger Slam at the Masters a month later.

At Bay Hill, Woods found himself in a tie with Phil Mickelson -- they were the top two players in the world rankings at the time -- on the final hole of regulation and after a wild drive left, he hit an incredible approach shot to about 10 feet. He converted the birdie putt (:43 mark of the video) for a dramatic win, gave a huge fist pump, and celebrated with then caddie Steve Williams. Note: This will be a recurring scenario.

Fans had to wait all of seven years to see a similar finish. Woods won this event two other times in between, but he did so by a combined 15 shots. In 2008, the difference was Woods was in search of a fifth straight win. Oh, and this time it was a 25-footer and he was battling journeyman Bart Bryant instead of the No. 2 golfer in the world. Woods doesn't discriminate when it comes to his on-course victims.

"Only perfect. That's all that putt was," NBC analyst Johnny Miller said. Of course, Woods would win that year's U.S. Open and then miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his left knee. We don't think the injury stemmed from his violent cap throw celebration.

Related: Our favorite go-to sayings for Tiger Woods

When Woods returned to Arnie's event the following year, he was still looking for proof that he could return to the player he was before the surgery. With Woods tied with Sean O'Hair on the final hole, Miller and Dan Hicks set the stage as if they knew what was going to happen next.

"He's got that beautiful cut shot, that he can aim it at the stands there and work it to the hole. And we know he can make that putt," Miller said. Good call:

"Again! At Bay Hill! On the 72nd hole!" Hicks exlaimed. "That's the way to get back into the winner's circle, isn't it?"

Related: A collection of our favorite Johnny Millerisms

"The guy is absolutely out of this world," Miller added.

This year, Woods is just out of another tournament. He won't be around to author another "walk-off" putt this weekend, but you can bet that won't stop NBC from taking a stroll down memory lane.

... Read
News & Tours

Here are some cool retro photos of Jack "Quadzilla" Nicklaus hitting balls in shorts

By Sam Weinman

At Golf Digest, we're fortunate to be surrounded by photos of the giants of the game at various stages of their careers. Look, there's Hogan blasting out of a bunker at Riviera! There's Arnie on the steps of his private jet!

As you might imagine, there's no shortage of photos of Jack Nicklaus, whether it's in his cherubic early pro days winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont, or after holing his iconic "Yes, sir!" birdie putt at 17 in 1986 at Augusta.

Related: Johnny Miller analyzes Jack Nicklaus' swing

Until recently, though, what we had never seen was this: the Golden Bear, in the prime of his career, hitting balls in shorts.

jack-in-shorts-300.jpgWe received the pictures courtesy of the man who took them, Dick Richeson, a former assistant professional at Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach, Fla. By Richeson's telling, a 30-year-old Nicklaus came to the club during the summer of 1970 (presumably around the time he won the Open Championship at St. Andrews) to practice, and he put the young assistant pro in charge of watching and teaching his two sons, Jackie and Steve.

"It was a challenge in helping them learn how to hit a golf ball," Richeson said. "When one would mess up, the other would laugh at him. And then came the tempers."

Nevertheless, the Nicklaus visits to Lost Tree resulted in these photographic gems, which Richeson said he wanted only for sentimental reasons, and not to try to hawk as memorabilia. He eventually sent them to us, along with a letter to Nicklaus reminding him of the context.

We're glad that he did. There are a number of things to marvel at about Nicklaus in the pictures. His perfect head of blond locks. Those timeless saddle shoes. But mostly, it's the intimidating size of Nicklaus' legs, more befitting an NFL fullback than the greatest golfer of all time.

Jack Nicklaus hitting balls in shortsNicklaus' legs were always an acknowledged source of his power, which he elaborated on in a Golf Digest story in May 2012.

"In my prime, my legs were very strong," he wrote. "My right thigh was 29.5 inches and my left was 28.5. I always wanted a stable base for my swing, and my hips did not move sideways. They turned, as if in a barrel."

So there you have it. The key to winning 18 majors: Work on your short game. Hit a power fade. And if you can squat 700 pounds, that doesn't hurt, either.

... Read
News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That time Henrik Stenson stripped down at Doral and didn't get a tip

By Alex Myers

These days, Henrik Stenson is known as arguably the best golfer in the world never to have won a major championship. He's come a long way.

Related: The 11 best golfers without a major

Not that Stenson wasn't in that conversation before his hot stretch in 2013 that culminated with him winning the FedEx Cup. Stenson won the 2009 Players and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before a brutal slump. But until recently, he was most remembered for, well, this:

blog-henrik-stenson-0306.jpg

During the opening round of the 2009 WGC-Cadillac Championship, Stenson stripped down at Doral to hit his second shot from mud on the third hole. Professional golfers removing their shoes and socks to play such a shot is pretty common, but taking off their shirt? Their pants? That's all you, Henrik! Here, he talked about the decision to "save" his white trousers and yellow shirt:

Stenson's comments right after the round were just as entertaining:

"I'll probably take that to the grave with me. I don't think I scared too many spectators off the course...I hope," Stenson said.

"You never know, I might have a new endorsement with Playgirl or something like that."

As far as we know, that hasn't come true. But if you're a big fan of the exhibitionist Swede or bad golf tanlines, you're in luck. Autographed pictures of the impromptu strip show are still available.

Related: Golf's all-time biggest slumps

Stenson is back at Doral this week and a part of the marquee pairing of the world's top three players the first two days. Hopefully, this time, if he winds up stealing the spotlight from Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, it's for his golf.

... Read
News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That WGC-Match Play final you probably don't remember

By Alex Myers

Much of the talk leading up to this year's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship focused on the absence of three big names: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Adam Scott. But the entire top 10 (or 20? Or 30?) from the Official World Golf Ranking could take the week off and this year's event would almost surely produce a more memorable final than the one it got in 2002.

Related: Six ways to fix the WGC-Match Play

Oh, you don't remember what happened that year? Not surprising. That was the time Kevin Sutherland faced off with Scott McCarron at La Costa for the Walter Hagen Cup! Still don't remember? Still not surprising.

Sutherland, ranked No. 64, was the No. 62 seed out of 64, while McCarron was ranked 47th and seeded No. 45. In other words, it was a nightmare scenario for a sponsor/broadcaster of a televised match play tournament.

blog-kevin-sutherland-mccarron.jpg

Not exactly a clash of the titans.

While we're not sure how many people actually watched, the match turned out to be a good one. In the 12 years that the event's final was 36 holes (2010 was the last time), this is one of only two times that it went the distance, with Sutherland winning 1 up. Not that the other instance of this was particularly memorable, either. No. 24 Jeff Maggert knocked off No. 50 Andrew Magee in 38 holes in 1999, the inaugural year of this event as a WGC.

Related: Why match play still matters

For Sutherland, the win made the lone PGA Tour title of his career a million-dollar payday, which was still a big deal back then. OK, so he probably remembers that year pretty well. . .

... Read
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today