Atlanta Braves rebuild on the diamond remain strong on the golf course

By Erik PetersonMarch 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
Throughout March, will spotlight various MLB spring training locations throughout Florida. A total of 16 MLB teams visit Florida each spring during a time when the state's golf season is also in full swing. We highlight the options for golf and baseball in each region, giving you, the fan, the ultimate guide to golf and baseball in the Sunshine State. Play Ball!
ORLANDO, Fla. ' If youre a baseball fan, you know that during the 1990s the Atlanta Braves set the MLB standard for pitching. Future Hall of Fame hurlers Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux made up 'The Big Three.'
john smoltz
Former Brave John Smoltz has has caused some including Tiger Woods to believe he has a career on the Champions Tour.
If youre a golf fan, you know the Braves also set a high bar on the golf course. John Smoltz anchored the squad in that regard, and when he signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox this off-season not only did it mark the end of his 20-year run with the Braves, but it also meant the Braves staff of great golfers took a serious hit (Smoltz carries a 1.6 handicap).
Today, the Braves next generation is being developed. Leading the pack is 25-year-old right fielder, Jeff Francoeur, who, as it turns out, is also an excellent golfer (his handicap is 5). In fact, past and present got together for a friendly golf game last week. The venue: Orlando's Isleworth Country Club. The host: Tiger Woods. Asked before his round if he'd take it if the world's no. 1 gave him three shots a side, Francoeur managed a quick smile before his competitiveness intervened. 'Last time we played at Isleworth Tiger made eight birdies and I shot 77. Im probably going to ask him for four,' he said.

Q&A with the Atlanta Braves
Welcome to springtime in Orlando, Fla. This is where the weather feels like New England in July, and there are more golf courses than in the entire state of Maryland. And while golf is probably not the reason the Braves call Disneys Wide World of Sports their home for spring training, it sure helps when you have numerous excellent options for golf within 15 minutes of your stadium. And, as it turns out, all of them are open to the public.
The nearest collection of courses is on Disneys sprawling, 35-square-mile property. There are four Disney courses from which to choose, all of which are championship-caliber.

General Info on Braves Spring Training
The Magnolia and Palm courses host the PGA Tour Childrens Miracle Network Classic, the final event on the PGA Tour schedule. Its past champions include such notables as Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods.
At 6,957 yards, Magnolia is the longest and most difficult of the Disney courses, though its no match for PGA Tour players who find little trouble negotiating the courses nearly 100 bunkers and large, undulating greens. Both Palm and Magnolia provide a formidable challenge for the everyday golfer, however. The other two Disney courses are Lake Buena Vista and Osprey Ridge.
For another excellent collection of golf courses, head a few exits west on I-4 to Ginn Reunion Resort. Each of its three golf courses (Legacy, Tradition and Independence) is designed by a renowned architect (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, respectively). The surrounding luxury residential community is the spring training home of several Braves players, including catcher, Clint Sammons.
I love staying at Reunion, Sammons said. Theyre really good about getting us out on any of their three golf courses, plus, its really close to the stadium so its very convenient for us players.
Each course in Reunions trio is similar to the other in that its suitable for all skill levels, a design characteristic customary in the resort golf genre. However, undulating greens and the flexibility of its tee boxes allow Reunion to draw professional events such as the LPGA Ginn Open, while also catering to the everyday golfer.
If youre looking to buck the trend of a standard Disney vacation, the condo-style living at Reunion is an excellent alternative. It has a feeling all its own, yet is only 15 minutes from Disney. And with a water park and several pools, it remains family 'and Braves' friendly.
For another course thats a favorite among Braves players, head back toward Disney to the town of Celebration. Developed in the early 1990s by the Walt Disney Co., the town is a real-life Pleasantville, where most residences are painted shades of white, and large front porches provide a welcoming feel thats quintessential Disney.
And because no quaint little town is complete without a golf course, Celebration Golf Club opened in 1996. Carefully routed through natural wetlands, the course tips out at 6,792 yards, but has several sets of tees, including one for juniors. Adding to its family appeal is the fact that it was designed by the father/son team of Robert Trent Jones and Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Head professional Kenny Nairn said its a common respite for Braves players, some of whom seek his keen eye for tips on their golf swing.
We have a great relationship with the Braves organization, Nairn said. Its amazing how competitive they are. Some of our staff and I will enjoy a friendly game with them, and they take it very seriously. Its evident they compete for a living.
But even when Braves players arent around, the course remains highly sought after. It prides itself on constantly changing for the better 'a new golf school is proof of such.
There are several possible itineraries for a spring training trip to Orlando, whether youre seeking a week with the family with baseball as just one of the options, or a weekend trip with as much golf and baseball crammed in as possible.
If you want to go the less expensive route, remember that most courses in the area have discount rates if you stay at their hotel, and/or book your tee time in the afternoon. Check out for tee times at more than 20 Disney-area golf courses.
At the stadium, if you go the family route consider tickets in the outfield lawn. Although this option doesnt entitle you to a physical seat, the grassy hill is laid back, comfortable, and a great option for families with kids. Spread a picnic blanket out on the grass, flag down a cold beverage vendor and youve just discovered spring training bliss.
No matter how you decide to do it, attending a spring training game is a must for any avid baseball fan. And playing golf during spring training makes it even better. If John Smoltz and Jeff Francoeur can do it, then so can you!
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.