Who won the first-ever Donald Ross Memorial Invitational boys individual title?

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Monday Recap: Lefty's transformation

Phil Mickelson at last year's Tour Championship/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Services

The Tiger-less final round at Torrey Pines was exciting to watch.

Those that tuned in on an otherwise slow sports day, witnessed Bubba Watson fend off Phil Mickelson and last week's winner Jhonattan Vegas to capture the Farmers Insurance Open.

Vegas was trying to win in back-to-back weeks for the first time on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods in 2009.

His second on the par-5 18th came up woefully short, found the lake and ended his chance.

Watson missed the green with his second with a poor approach, but did what champions do, when the left-hander curled in a birdie-saving putt with Mickelson waiting in the last group.

But what Sunday's round might have suggested is something that golf fans have asked Mickelson to do for years - play smart.

Lefty has a history of swashbuckling tactics that can be very good (see 2010 Masters) or very, very disastrous (see U.S. Opens).

However, Mickelson layed up rather than trying to pull off that one-in-a-hundred shot that Lefty is accustomed to try under the intense final round pressure.

And then something really cool happened.

Known as a supreme talent with a wedge, Mickelson had his caddy tend the flag for his third shot from 72 yards away.

This isn't typical protocol, but playing in the last group needing to hole out to force a playoff, standard procedure goes out the window.

Mickelson even walked up to the green to judge the contours.

He nearly pulled it off, landing the ball next to the cup and spinning it back slightly.

It just didn't spin back enough and Watson won.

So have we seen a change in Mickelson's course management?

Maybe, but we won't know for sure until he does it again ... and again ... and down the stretch with a major (U.S. Open) on the line.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jessica Korda rallies for Top 10 finish

Jessica Korda at last year's U.S. Women's Amateur/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Services

Bradenton's Jessica Korda rebounded from a second round 77 to fire a final round 66 in the Suncoast Ladies Series tournament at West Orange Country Club in Winter Garden Jan. 24-26.

Korda finished in a tie for seventh to collect $200. The 17-year-old turned pro after qualifying for the 2011 LPGA Tour, which issued a special age waiver to allow her to play for the upcoming season.

Korda turns 18 at the end of February, with just two tournaments - invitationals in Asia - taking place before the LPGA Tour heads back to America.

Korda was tied with Jodi Ewart at 3-over par, which was eight strokes behind Laura Diaz's winning total.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tiger Woods making a charge?

Tiger Woods at last year's Barclays/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Services

Check out the leaderboard when play begins Saturday in the PGA Tour's Farmer Insurance Open.

See anything familiar?

Tiger Woods is tied for 12th halfway through the $5.8 million pursed tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Woods carded his second straight 69 to place himself five shots behind leader Bill Haas.

El Tigre was in bad shape before two late birdies got him to 6-under par for the tournament.

So is Tiger Woods back?

Or is his game still light years away?

The answer is neither.

Woods is flashing the potential that made him golf's most dominant force since Jack Nicklaus.

But his game hasn't returned, either.

Woods had a bogey stretch that was unheard of during his scorching run prior to the marital scandal that's left him No. 3 in the latest Official World Golf Rankings.

A victory at Torrey Pines, however, will do more to steer Woods back to the mountain top.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paula Creamer performs clinic at Ritz celebration

Paula Creamer putts in the 2010 CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Services

The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club celebrated its five-year anniversary last Saturday with a major champion conducting a clinic.

That player is reigning U.S. Women's Open winner Paula Creamer.

Creamer, dubbed the Pink Panther, braved the cold and wind for the morning clinic.

The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club also is the home course for reigning U.S. Amateur champ Peter Uihlein.

The east Manatee track features a various practice facilities, and several area mini-tour pros have frequented the club to hone their game.

And to whet your appetite, check out this video on Creamer's triumph last summer:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tip of the week: Wet Sand

With all the heavy rain sweeping through Manatee County, this week's tip focuses on how to play in the rain.

To piggyback off last week's bunker tip, here's one to help hit those wet sand shots to a comfortable up-and-down opportunity:

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Monday Recap: Vegas, baby!

Jhonattan Vegas during Sunday's Bob Hope Classic/courtesy of Associated Press

If you tuned away from the first half of the AFC Championship game (the Pittsburgh Steelers were leading 24-3 at halftime) for the Bob Hope Classic, then you witnessed a star in the making.

Jhonattan Vegas survived the sudden-death playoff with a Seve Ballesteros-like par to defeat Gary Woodland.

Defending champ Bill Haas was eliminated earlier in the playoff.

Vegas had cranked his tee shot into the water hazard, and then pulled off a pre-scandal Tiger Woods shot that set up a par-saving effort from about 10 feet behind the pin.

After Woodland's missed the green, blasted a bunker shot well past the flag and whiffed on his par chance, Vegas stepped up and did what we've seen Tiger do so many times in the past.

He canned it for his first-ever PGA Tour victory in just his fifth event.

The Venezuelan is joining a hotbed of talent as the game grows in South America.

Multiple Tour winner Camilo Villegas is Colombian and two-time major winner Angel Cabrera hails from Argentina.

This is good for the game, because without Tiger's ever-dominating presence, golf needs someone to step up and take hold.

With the fiery personality and the humble-yet-competitive demeanor, Vegas is off to a rookie campaign that could find himself in the winner's circle again before 2011 finishes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tip of the week: Bunkers

Getting it up-and-down is a must for anyone looking to lower their golf scores.

And doing it out of bunkers, which requires deft touch, can drop your scores even more.

It's those sand saving shots that make up the tip of the week.

Check out the video from the IMG David Leadbetter Golf Academy:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Las Vegas trip discounted in Sunday's partners event

Logo provided by the West Florida Golf Tour

The West Florida Am Tour is heading to Bent Tree Country Club in Sarasota this Sunday, but the tournament has a bit of a twist.

Rather than the normal structure where amateurs play each other in medal play, with a quota points system used to determine net and gross division winners, the WFAT is going with a partners format for the Sunday event.

A two-man scramble format is used as Golfer's Guide is sponsoring the tourney that is offering a discounted trip to Las Vegas for the participants.

Call WFAT tournament director Stephen Arnold at (215)-813-0237 for more information.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Davis Love III tabbed as next U.S. Ryder Cup captain

Davis Love III at the 2009 Quail Hollow Championship/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Service

Davis Love III is the new United States Ryder Cup captain.

The former PGA Championship winner was selected to captain the 2012 edition, which is slated for Medinah (Ill.) Country Club.

Love's illustrious career includes 20 PGA Tour victories and several Ryder Cup appearances - the last coming in 2004.

The decision to pick Love comes on the heels of Europe choosing Jose Maria Olazabal as its captain.

Olazabal's chronic back injuries has sidelined the former two-time Masters champ in recent years, but the Spanish legend will take charge of a European side littered with talent.

That talent was on display this past fall when the Europeans regained the Ryder Cup over the Americans at Celtic Manor in Wales.

Now that the news is out on the captains, we'll just have to wait 18 months before the first shot is hit in the next Ryder Cup and watch to see who qualifies for each team.

Tiger Woods announces debut

Tiger Woods during last year's The Barclays golf tournament/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Services

Tiger Woods announced Wednesday that he'll make his 2011 PGA Tour debut at the Farmer's Insurance Open.

The annual event at Torrey Pines is something Woods has gotten used to.

In fact, he's gotten used to winning at the San Diego track - earning victories the last five times he's played there.

Woods had this to say about his game on Twitter:

"I've been working hard on my game, it's game time hooah!!"

Television ratings have a tendency to go up when Tiger is in the field, so getting Woods back on the course - whether you love him or hate him - is a good thing for the PGA Tour.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bob Hope Classic doesn't draw the stars

Bubba Watson in the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational/courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune Services

The PGA Tour has left Hawaii for the annual West Coast Swing, which means tour stops here in Florida are on the horizon.

But first, this week's event heads to the sunny Palm Springs, Calif. and the Bob Hope Classic.

The event is short on star power, but long-hitting Bubba Watson is in the field with a chance to improve on his runner-up finish one year ago.

The tournament is a unique stop on the PGA Tour schedule with celebrity amateurs mixing it up with the pros.

Aside from the three amateurs, the event is the lone one to dot the calendar using four courses and 90-holes to decide the winner.

It makes for some entertaining scores, and the tourney should continue in the future despite some big names not making the trip.

The tournament's name is in honor of Bob Hope, who did a lot to promote the game of golf.

So, let's give the legendary comedian and his tournament its due and watch some superb action this weekend in between those pesky NFL playoff games.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Innovative prize during WFGT event

Logo provided by WFGT

Players on the West Florida Golf Tour had the unique opportunity to compete for a brand-new Porsche, compliments of Suncoast Porsche, during Monday's event.

The prize came on a blustery day at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in the form of a hole-in-one contest.

Nobody won the Porsche on No. 3, a par-3, but WFGT owner Carl Wakely was the closest with a shot that stopped 2 1/2 feet away.

The tour keeps picking up steam with another sponsored event coming Saturday with the Lynches Pub & Grub Open at the Longboat Key Club.

The tourney will have $200 added to the purse.

In between those two events, the WFGT trekked north for a visit to River Hills Country Club.

Marco Dawson outlasted Joe Monte on the fourth playoff to collect the $1,000 first-place check.

Both players carded even-par 72s, before facing off in the sudden-death playoff.

Dawson drained a 40-footer for birdie on the first extra hole. Monte then sank a 35-footer right after to extend the playoff.

The WFGT returns to Bradenton with a tournament at IMG Academies Golf & Country Club on Jan. 21.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sweeney prepares for European Tour career

Jaclyn Sweeney/photo by Paul Videla, pvidela@bradenton.com

Jaclyn Sweeney's career on the Ladies European Tour is slated to begin in February in Australia.

The trip, which will include the Australian Open and Masters tournaments as well as the New Zealand Open, is just a taste of different cultures that Sweeney will encounter during the year abroad.

"I’m pretty sure it’s tomorrow and nighttime in Australia right now. So it’s going to be interesting," Sweeney said. "I played in Japan for ASU in Topy Cup, and I woke up at 3:45 each morning. So hopefully, I won’t have that same experience. But it’s going to be awesome seeing places like Morocco and Dubai and traveling all throughout Europe and seeing all the different cultures."

Despite having to go the European Tour route, due to her finish in the LPGA Tour's Q-School, Sweeney didn't get down on herself.

Instead, the short turnaround between both tour's final stage of Q-School paid dividends once she arrived in Spain.

"I only had about four hours to do that, and then take a Tylenol PM and sleep on my flight over, so I was rested for the next day," Sweeney said. "It was as (my coach David Whelan) said, week-in-and-week-out. I think that prepared me a little bit more. Because I played nine holes and then went into a five-round qualifier. It was a lot of golf in 3 1/2 weeks, and a lot of travel, but it was definitely worth it.”

Whelan, who also teaches Paula Creamer, said Sweeney's game showed vast improvement once she transferred from Oklahoma State to Arizona State.

As a Sun Devil, Sweeney had an outstanding career capped with a member of the 2009 NCAA national championship team.

All those things led to her decision to shed the amateur tag this past summer and head to Q-School, where she earned runner-up honors for a full-time playing card.

"She has the ability to be able to do what she did at Tour School, which is from a professional golfer’s standpoint, the highest level of pressure in any competition that you’ll play," Whelan said. "Hopefully, it will give her the confidence to go on and think, ‘Hey, I can do this. Even when the situation is at its toughest."

To read more about the Bradenton golfer and Pendleton School alum, check out Thursday's edition of The Bradenton Herald.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FSGA Rules seminars begin today

The FSGA's Rules of Golf workshops begin today at various venues across the state.
Each class runs from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and includes lunch, a rule book, outdoor demostrations and indoor slide and video presentations.

Costs are $30 per person (general public) and $10 per person (FSGA Committee Members).

It's free for all Florida Junior Tour members, with an e-mail to info@floridajuniortour.org one week in advance to complete registration.

To register, visit the locations here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Monday Recap

Robert Garrigus and putter at Hyundai Tournament of Champions/provided by Associated Press

Just a few tidbits from this past week's pro circuits:

- Yes, Robert Garrigus' putter is that small. And just like a golf swing, there's no correct way - whatever works, works.

In Garrigus' case, the small putter earned him a playoff berth before Jonathan Byrd eventually won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to begin the 2011 PGA Tour season.

- Tiger Woods was not present, because you had to win a tournament in 2010. It was something Woods failed to do for the first time in his pro career.

- Don't be fooled with the massive yardages the pros were mashing tee shots.

Elevation and trade winds in Hawaii in January can make it seem like the PGA Tour pros are trying out for the World Long Drive Championship.

- The European PGA Tour also kicked off this past week with the South African Open.

And who would have figured a South African would win?

Louis Oosthuizen did that as the reigning British Open champ begins 2011 in style, shooting 16-under for a playoff victory.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tip of the week: Chipping

This week's tip hits on one key facet to everyone's game - chipping.

Not even the best players in the world hit every green in regulation.

So, the short game is an area that can prove the difference between a par, bogey or worse on all the missed greens.

Check out this video from the IMG Academies, home to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, to learn how to take your chipping to the next level:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 LPGA Tour schedule unveiled

Logo from lpga.com

The LPGA Tour announced its 2011 schedule Thursday.

There are some differences between last year's schedule and this years.

First, when the LPGA Tour hits the domestic portion of the schedule after beginning in Asia, a new charity event will begin play on United States soil.

The RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup is the tournament slated for Phoenix in March without a prize purse, as players are competing for what commissioner Mike Whan called a "mock purse" in a national conference call Thursday.

Also, the season-ending LPGA Tour championship has been repackaged as the Titleholders.

The tournament is the lone Florida stop, despite the Sunshine State's penchant for attracting world-class professionals to its borders for a residence.

Another glaring tidbit from a first glance at the schedule is how three majors are sandwiched together in a four-tournament stretch.

Whan said they'll try spacing the majors out a bit more in 2012.

As it stands, however, those tournaments are wedged together, unless some shifting goes on before.

Whan also said a domestic tournament or two could be added to the current 25 official events listed.

Bradenton's Jessica Korda, who turns 18 at the end of February, said she hasn't had a chance to discuss the schedule with her parents yet.

The high school senior gained a special age waiver to play the LPGA Tour in 2011 following her success at Q-School.

There are just two tournaments - both in Asia - prior to Korda turning 18, so it's likely she won't begin her professional life until the LPGA Tour returns to America.

2011 Golf Guide trivia contest winner announced

Congrats are in order for Jeff Folb, who was announced the 2011 Golf Guide trivia contest winner in today's Herald.

Folb answered all the questions correctly.

Here are the questions and corresponding answer:

1. What former Pendleton School student broke through for his/her first major championship in 2010? Paula Creamer

2. How many tournaments did Tiger Woods win on the PGA Tour in 2010? None/Zero

3. Jack Nicklaus visited Manatee County prior to the Masters. How many green jackets has he won? Six

4. What is Tiger Woods' real first name? Eldrick

5. What notable Sarasota High grad and Bradenton resident made his Champions Tour debut in 2010? Paul Azinger

6. Who won the 2010 Ryder Cup held at Celtic Manor in Wales? Europe

7. How many Americans won a men's major in 2010? One

8. What's the name of the mini-tour located in Manatee/Sarasota counties? West Florida Golf Tour

9. Who is the only golfer to win the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur and British Amateur in the same year? Bobby Jones

10. What two-time major winner calls Manatee County home? Tony Jacklin

11. Who won this year's Curtis Cup? United States

12. How many more major championships does Tiger Woods need to pass Jack Nicklaus? Five

13. What local course did Nicklaus visit prior to the Masters? The Concession Golf Club

14. What former Bradenton residents won the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Amateur? Byeong-hun An and Peter Uihlein

15. Which course boasts of having the highest point of elevation in Manatee County? Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club

16. Who won the last Champions (then Senior PGA) Tour event at TPC Prestancia? Tom Wargo

17. Lee Westwood took over the No. 1 ranking from Woods this year. How many weeks was Woods at No. 1? 281 weeks in a row

18. All-Star Golf once taped a match between Sam Snead and Bob Rosburg in Manatee County. What current course was it at? Palm Aire Country Club

Bonus 19. An up-and-coming golfer won a national tournament this year. What animal name does he go by? Lion Kim

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The WFAT's discounted fee is hard to beat

Logo provided by the WFGT

The West Florida Am Tour is extending its special holiday membership offer through the next event.

That tournament is Monday's stop at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club.

The offer is a membership fee that is waived.

Call Stephen Arnold at 215-813-0237 for more information on the tour and if there are any spots remaining for the upcoming tournament.

And to find out how the mini-tour pros fared in the opening major to the 2011 schedule, pick up Thursday's edition of the Herald.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Augusta National featured in new Woods' game

Tiger Woods at last year's Masters/courtesy McClatchy News-Service

Augusta National is that crown jewel most of us only dream of playing.

That's not the case anymore ... if you enjoy video games.

The venerable layout that hosts the Masters each year is lending itself to EA Sports for its annual Tiger Woods video game series.

The franchise's next installment is "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" and is slated for release a week before the Masters.

It's the first time Augusta National has allowed itself to be featured in a video game.

And while Augusta National is still a male-only club, the move to the video game world looks like an attempt to gain interest from a younger audience.

Here's a commercial from a previous version of the game:

Monday, January 3, 2011

West Florida Golf Tour's first major offers nice prize

Logo provided by WFGT

The West Florida Golf Tour's first major takes place Wednesday for its 2011 Winter Season.

A hefty purse and prize for the winner is sure to be had considering the field size is 31 as of late Monday night.

The tournament is at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in east Manatee County.

The competition looks stiff with several players from the top five at the end of the WFGT's inaugural Order of Merit standings taking part at the Ritz.

Oh, and the winner gets a free entry into another tournament.

Not a bad incentive for some good golf.