Punch Shot: Which celeb do you want as partner?

As we inch closer to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, GolfChannel.com writers debate which celebrity they'd like to spend the day with. While there are some obvious answers, others fly a little bit more under the radar. Good thing about this question is, there really is no wrong answer. Give us your take in the comments below.


By JASON SOBEL

Two years ago, I was dispatched to the Travelers Championship to shoot a TV piece with Carl Spackler himself, Bill Murray.

Instead of the standard Q&A that we've all seen a million times before, I aimed for something different. My goal was a feature in which I'd follow Murray around the course during his pro-am, talking to him as if we're old buddies and he wouldn't say a word. I know, I know. But trust me: It was even less hilarious than it sounds.

So I approached him on the driving range before he teed off, introduced myself and told him that I might ask him a few questions during the day, but he can just totally ignore me. "Well, I can do that!" he said extra cheerfully.

I didn't intrude too much, only speaking to him when he was walking down fairways and wasn't talking to any playing partners or signing autographs. And true to his work as brilliant actor, Murray ignored me the entire time.

To this day, I'm still not sure if he was ignoring me because that was the idea or because he just didn't want to be bothered. My guess is it was a little of both.

Anyway, he'd be the celeb I'd most want to hang with at Pebble Beach. I'd probably keep talking his ear off, acting like we were old buddies. Hopefully he'd actually respond back this time.


By RYAN LAVNER

There are so many delightful possibilities, aren’t there? An NBA world-beater like Kris Humphries. A talented musician like Soulja Boy. A multi-platform star and entreprenuer like Nicki Minaj. Hey, maybe one day we can form that dream foursome.

But really, if I’m going to spend five-plus hours at Pebble Beach, soaking in the sun and ruining all of the spectacular views with atrocious shots, it better be with Will Ferrell.

The reasons, I suppose, are obvious. He’s a Cali dude, so he’d know his way around, both before and, most importantly, after. He actually plays golf, which is a bonus. He knows how to tell a good story. And he’d keep the mood light, which means I’d play terribly and not care in the least. 


By WILL GRAY

Assuming that Ryan Lavner is unavailable, I’ll choose to play alongside Adam Duritz, the outspoken lead singer of the Counting Crows. Duritz may not carry a USGA handicap index, but he’s an avid sports fan and, let’s be honest – the scorecard takes a backseat when making your way around a course as beautiful as Pebble Beach.

A round of golf on the Monterey Peninsula is in and of itself a privilege, but to spend five hours (or so) shooting the breeze with one of the best songwriters of my generation would certainly add to the experience. If nothing else, we wouldn’t lack for conversation topics and the ever-relaxed Duritz likely won’t lose his cool when we inevitably combine for a three-putt double.


By RANDALL MELL

Bob Hope was “Mr. Golf.”

In the golden era of PGA Tour pro-ams, golf’s biggest stars were practically overshadowed by Hollywood’s stars. Hope, though, is one of just three celebrities enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame, joining Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore there.

Hope played in the 1951 British Amateur at Royal Porthcawl. He was once a 4 handicap. As a funny man, though, he was better than a scratch player. He documented his passion for the game in the book, “Bob Hope’s Confessions of a Hooker: My lifelong love affair with golf.”

Hope’s combination of skill and humor might have made him the greatest celebrity pro-am partner ever. He could reel off more entertaining one-liners in a round than any great pro could reel off birdies.

“I’m an international player,” Hope once said. “I can say `shank’ in 27 languages.”


By REX HOGGARD

Five hours with funnyman Bill Murray at Pebble Beach would be time well spent. Ditto for Ray Romano and Darius Rucker. But if you had to pick one all-time celebrity partner to play with at the National Pro-Am it would be the man himself, Bing Crosby.

The event that set the standard for celebrity golf is still referred to in these parts as the Crosby Clambake, the name it held until 1985 in honor of the famous crooner who invented the concept of the celebrity pro-am.

Crosby hosted the first Clambake in 1937 and the event is as unique now as it was then despite notoriously poor weather and a golf course rotation that has not exactly been among the most well-liked among PGA Tour types.

That’s all thanks to Crosby, who gave his name and personality to the event. He wooed his Hollywood friends to Monterey, including many members of the famed Rat Pack, and merged entertainment with sport in a way that had never been done before.

But more than anything Crosby was cool, entertaining galleries and amateurs with the perfect backdrop – Pebble Beach.

Arnold Palmer may have brought golf to the masses and Tiger Woods certainly introduced the game to an entirely new generation, but Crosby made golf cool.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.