Smooth-Swinging on the Courseand In Business
A melody is nice. But when harmony enriches a good melody, the heart swells and rises in the chest, whether youre a musician or not.
So it was with Snead. Millions of people (not all of them golf fans) got to see him do his magic in person. (His gifts translated well to film, plenty of which remains, thank goodness.) The way his muscles flowed into place was symphonic, without a hint of abruptness. And like good harmony, the flow was so transcendent that while you were still being transported by one element of Sneads swing, another had begun to amaze you, all surging into a satisfying whole.
This is what we have to remember of Sam Snead. But there is much more, even more than his legendary storytelling prowess.
When a cherished life ends, there is always sadness. We are programmed to resist changes from the comfortable, and it was decidedly comfortable to have Sam Snead alive and in our sport. But the sadness of death can be softened a bit by the knowledge that the life was long, productive and marked by honor.
Again, so it was with Snead. Sam Snead and Wilson Golf.
Even cynical reporters have long ago given up bashing professional golfers for changing club companies faster than you can say spring-like effect. The economics of modern professional golf ' and golf equipment ' have changed what the market and fan sensibilities will bear.
On the other hand, Sam Snead signed with Wilson in 1937, when he was 25. And that was it. Sixty-four years. One company. In 1938, Wilson came out with the Blue Ridge irons, named for the region that contains Sneads hometown, Hot Springs, Va. That line lasted more than 50 years; the classic shaped clubs bore an engraved straw hat of the kind Snead favored. They were the first clubs a lot of kids ever hit (me included), filched from their parents bags during long summer evenings on the front lawn.
In true Snead style ' something I like to call backwoods flash, or Walter Hagen with grits and gravy ' his signing with Wilson was not your garden-variety contract fest. Word from inside the company is that the chief of Wilson in the mid-1930s accepted a challenge from a counterpart at another company ' something about how the challengers Cuban golf pro could whup anyone the Wilson fellow could put up.
So Mr. Big (as he was called at Wilson at the time) calls in Tommy Armour and Gene Sarazen and tells them, heres the match and weve gotta win.
Is it big money? Sarazen says.
Really big, says Mr. Big.
Gene must have had enough pressure in his life about then. Armour too. They conferred for a moment, then turned back to Mr. Big, and Armour told him the score.
Weve got this kid from Virginia youve never heard of.
Mr. Big bought in, and down Sam went to the land of dulce de leches. He thoroughly humbled the pre-Castro golf great, so humbling him that Snead had to hop an immediate flight off the island to keep body and soul together.
And when he returned, Wilson offered him a $5,000 endorsement deal. Big money for a 25-year-old kid as the country was clawing its way out of the Great Depression.
As stories go, that one just scratches to tip of the Snead iceberg. Since the news came Thursday afternoon, many people in golf have hardly put down the phone, working out their mourning by telling story upon story upon tale upon yarn. Thats something else he left us.
With a proper nod to Arnold Palmer and the rise of televised golf, Billy Casper took the history one step further backwards in American golfs genealogy.
Sam and Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen were some of the greatest contributors to the game, Casper said from his San Diego home Friday morning. Because of them, golf really had an opportunity to grow and flourish. Sam was with Wilson his entire career ' and that speaks well of the character of the man. If you dont do the job, you dont get to stay with a company like that.
Ive often written of my doubt that endorsements, those devilishly hard-to-measure creations of modern marketing, really sell golf clubs. But Im willing to suspend my disbelief in Sam Sneads case. Sure, he and Wilson helped each other to prosperity. But Sam wasnt just selling clubs.
Sam Snead sold golf. Generations bought in. For millions, it has been a happy enterprise.
Swing easy, Slammer.
Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."