By Bill Fields
By Jim Moriarty
After a good experience in the British Open at Muirfield in July, six-time major champion Nick Faldo decided to come out of the CBS television booth long enough to play a smattering of Champions Tour events. His best laid plans came undone at the SAS Championship when he had to withdraw after hitting his tee shot on the 13th hole at Prestonwood CC in Cary, NC, with an elbow injury.
Playing in last year's PNC Father/Son Challenge, Faldo got a pretty good idea of all the broken bits and pieces. "That's when I discovered all my injuries, tears in my shoulder and all sorts of things," said Faldo. "I had a really good rehab but I've got a tear in my capsule in my left elbow."
After making a simple forward gesture with his putter on the sixth green, Faldo felt the elbow flare up. He tried to play but couldn't continue after losing tee shots straight left on the 10th and 13th holes.
"I really wanted to play. I was really looking forward to it, gearing up to do this. But this is a bad one," said Faldo. "I can't hit the darn thing. You don't know whether you're going to flinch and hit it left or right. Tournament golf asks a little bit more, doesn't it?"
The only thing Faldo will be able to do is rest the injury and, "be sensible," he said. "So, we'll see how sensible I am."
From the September 30 edition of Golf World Monday:
Scott Langley returned to Pebble Beach last week to offer testimony on what The First Tee can do for a life -- and a career.
Langley was a 2012 PGA Tour rookie who won the pro-junior event at the Champions Tour's Nature Valley First Tee Open in 2006. He also tied for low amateur honors in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and to show how far he has come in the past seven years, Langley was invited to play with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Jay Haas at Cypress Point last Thursday, the day he was also scheduled to address The First Tee and Champions Tour participants at a Legends and Leaders dinner.
Coming to the 18th hole, Langley was told by Sam Reeves, their host, that if he holed his second shot, it would mean tying the course record 63 held by, among others, Ben Hogan. From 125 yards out, Langley hit the flagstick with his shot and made a 2¿-footer for the 64.
That night Langley looked out over the audience at The Beach Club, and said to the young men and women sitting nervously in their chairs, "I know how you feel. Seven years ago, I was sitting where you are."
Langley made an impression on the audience not only for the way his career panned out, but also for the way he embodies The First Tee's core values. He grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, a blue-collar golfer who hit scarred range balls off mats until a First Tee chapter was established.
"I wouldn't say I came from a poor background," Langley said. "But I didn't have a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn't have a chip on my shoulder, but I knew I had to work hard at everything I was going to get."
Among the 81 First Tee participants listening intently to Langley was Brittany Ferrante, a 5-foot-2, 100-pound, 16-year-old high school senior who plays No. 1 on the Walt Whitman High boys' team in Huntington Station on New York's Long Island.
Brittany didn't have a stable life at home the way Langley did. Her parents had issues. As part of her essay, she wrote about her mother attempting suicide. Constantly in between jobs as a civil engineer, her father went on the Internet and found a First Tee chapter near their home at Eisenhower Park.
"I have no idea where we would be [without the First Tee], but we wouldn't be in a good spot," Ferrante said, acknowledging her brother, Dominick, who made the trip as her caddie.
She played alongside Rocco Mediate and although she did not make the cut, it was still the experience of a young lifetime. Golf Channel featured Brittany, even using her silhouette against the beach in the closing credits Friday. Billy Ray Brown made the comment on air, "Don't be fooled. She hits it miles."
Like Langley, Ferrante has aspirations of playing college golf, then pro golf. Plan B is to be an elementary school teacher or open a golf academy. She heads back to New York this morning with dreams of returning to Pebble Beach, maybe as head of a First Tee chapter.
"It wasn't what I expected," she said. "It was more."
By Derek Evers
Steve Elkington raised some eyebrows when he sent out a series of offensive tweets on Friday evening and again on Saturday morning.
"Things about Southport ... fat tattooed guy, fat tattooed girl, trash, Pakistani robber guy, s**t food," Elkington tweeted late Friday, before chiming back in on his own thread to poorly explain his frustration. "Couple caddies got rolled by some Pakkis, bad night for them."
After the controversial tweets, the winner of the 1995 PGA Championship actually began his third round with a police officer in his group for the first few holes. Elkington issued a statement to the media at 2:15 pm, or roughly 20 minutes after he teed off, sounding like a man who realizes he may face disciplinary action from both the Champions Tour and European Tour.
"I am prepared to adhere to any disciplinary action that the Championship sees fit," the statement read. "In my tweet I was referring to an unfortunate incident involving a caddie earlier in the week. Being Australian, I was unaware that my use of language in relation to the Pakistani people would cause offense, but having been made aware I now deeply regret the use of that terminology.
"Southport is a beautiful place and I have enjoyed playing at Royal Birkdale, as my positive content on Twitter has shown. My comments were born out of frustration over what had happened to a colleague."Elkington finished his round with one-over 71 and headed straight to his car after signing his scorecard. He is currently tied for 11th place heading into tomorrow's final round.
The European Tour issued a statement to say that it had spoken to Elkington about his "inappropriate and regrettable comments" and said the matter will be reviewed before the Championship considers disciplinary action. "Steve has expressed his regret at his comments and wishes to apologize to the Championship and the people of Southport for any offense caused."
By Bill Fields
OMAHA, 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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.