Giving thanks

By Jason SobelNovember 24, 2011, 3:45 am

Whenever I return to my hometown of Islip, N.Y., for the Thanksgiving holiday, I try to tee it up with family and friends.

A few years ago, I got a little carried away, playing 45 holes in 30-degree weather the day before Turkey Day. Dad joined me for the first 18, followed by a conglomeration of cousins and buddies. Others have undoubtedly played more golf in colder conditions, but for me personally, on that course, that was the day heaven froze over. (You know, if heaven was an overpriced muni that lacked enough bunker rakes.)

Sitting at the dinner table 24 hours later, though, I found I had plenty for which to be thankful. Great relatives and friends. The game that we all love. And, perhaps more than anything, regained feeling in my frostbitten fingertips.

The following is a list of 50 things – in no particular order – to be thankful for in golf this year. And it’s preceded by thanks to many Twitter friends who chimed in on the assignment, too.

Discussion: What are you thankful for?

The perfect swing tip. For every 99 little pieces of advice that don’t compute, there’s that one tip that unlocks the secret to a better move through the ball. For a few holes, at least.

The second guy. You know, the one who makes that 4-foot putt every single time.

The handicap system. You want to tee it up against world No. 1 Luke Donald? Mark up the scorecard and it's a fair fight.

“Caddyshack.” More than three decades after it was released, it remains side-splittingly hilarious.

“Caddyshack II.” Yes, it’s awful … but doesn’t that fact help make you appreciate the genius of the original film even more?

Play-for-pay. If a baseball player has a terrible season, his bank account isn't affected. That doesn't happen in golf.

@_p_n_k: early morning dew on the green! It's the perfect way to read a putt.

@sallyoRI: Living next to a par 3 for an endless supply of golf balls.

@pwand03: Wind in your face on 1 means wind at your back on 18.

Pro golfers on Twitter. Unfiltered thoughts – from their thumbs to your eyes.

Michael Whan. After years of front office futility, the LPGA is in good hands. 

Q-School. Every professional sport should have it. Play well enough over a finite period and you get to join the most elite level of your profession. Pressure personified.

Caddies. Not talking about the Steve Williams variety, but the high school kids who earn some spending money lugging clubs while learning valuable lessons about the game.

@jgolf1: I'm thankful for 460CC club heads. That's the only way my swing would produce 280-yard drives.

@deucerolle: I'm thankful that we have 3 inches of snow in Minnesota and I am able to go 5 months without hitting a bad shot

@MrSmiles19: patience, perseverance, providing a sanctuary of peace...and mulligans for my balls in the drink

Cloudy and 62 degrees. Shhh. Here’s a little secret, fellow golfers: When it’s overcast and slightly chilly, most of the fair-weather hackers are too scared to play. These are the days you can fly around the course, maybe even get in 36 holes.

RBC and Boeing Company. It may sound overly NASCAR to thank the sponsors, but these two are responsible for saving the Heritage and keeping a PGA Tour event at Harbour Town, one of the best venues on the annual schedule.

@dreemjar: I'm thankful for 'concrete' evidence that golf gods exist...only in the form of long, favorable bounces.

@dtstewart: thankful for some extra cash in my pocket #birdieon18=$

@justinkittle: No CBA or players union! Independent contractors FTW!

Yani Tseng’s success. Eleven worldwide wins this season, seven in LPGA-sanctioned events. Pure domination.

Yani Tseng’s potential. She owns five major titles at age 22. She may not become the greatest player of all time, but it will be a blast watching her try.

Augusta National Golf Club. If you have to ask why, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Finding “it” at the range. Like winning the lottery – and not having to share the prize with anyone else.

The emergence of Luke Donald. The world’s No. 1-ranked player doesn’t bomb it a mile off the tee, doesn’t look like an NFL linebacker and isn’t intimidating. In today’s age, when most courses are beefed up beyond recognition, it’s good to see hard work and perseverance pay off more than brute strength.

@joejablonski27: Thankful that Tiger has finally seemed to genuinely have fun in a team competition. That smile was the best in a long time

@mps1968: In no particular order...I'm thankful for Gold Bond, Bandon Dunes and Natalie Gulbis on Twitter.

@Ebud867: I am thankful to live in the greatest place on earth to be a golfer. Northern California

Reverse sandbaggers. That guy in the next cubicle who brags he’s a 7, but plays to a 14? Let him talk. Then take his cash.

Drive for show, putt for dough. The 320-yard drive counts for one stroke, just like the 10-foot knee-knocker.

No trades, no free agency. Got a favorite golfer? Your allegiances will never change because he left to play in for another city.

Twilight rates. It’s like Happy Hour for golfers, quickly followed by Happy Hour.

@MarkHasenjager: Every round of golf with your dad; you never know which one will be the last.

@beniswinning: PGA Tour players are non-union contractors, decide their own fate/schedule & have a great pension & can't strike

@CoreyTaft: The new Pinehurst # 2. Coore and Crenshaw brought it back to life.

Jason Kokrak on the PGA Tour. A few years back, I informally polled a handful of Nationwide players as to whom amongst them would be the next PGA Tour star. They all said Jason Day – which has turned out to be a pretty good pick. Common consensus for the upcoming season is Kokrak, who could challenge Gary Woodland as the longest hitter out there.

The 19th hole. The last hole of the day is where every golfer can prove he’s a scratch handicap.

Every sentence Lee Trevino has ever spoken. Like this: “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.”

@jkjones21: Thankful I didn't have a 'Kevin Na 16' all golf season despite my best efforts.

@tylerag97: Steve Williams for being such a jerk that he made Tiger look like a good guy!

@JeffOBrienJOB: thankful for pencils with erasers

The perfect yardage. Those times when you step up to the ball, know it’s exactly a stock 8-iron, then strike it to pin-high.

Amateur golf. Russell Henley and Harris English won Nationwide Tour events while still in school. Patrick Cantlay posted a 60 on the PGA Tour. Tomorrow’s stars are getting better every day.

Lame golf jokes. Sure, you roll your eyes, but a day on the links with some stranger is always a little more fun when he tells one such as this: “A man and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course. He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer. His friend says: “Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.” The man then replies: “Yeah, well, we were married 35 years.”

Fashion-conscious pros. Whether you like the looks of players like Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter, you can at least credit them for having a personal sense of style.

Metal spikes. Most courses won’t let you wear ‘em anymore – and for good reason. But nothing sounds better than a pair of metal spikes click-clacking down the cartpath.

@David4242: I am thankful for Erik Compton, a guy who gives the word 'heart' both a figurative and literal meaning.

@mcd3putt: regardless of triple digits... thankful for rounds at spyglass and pebble with dad and two brothers in October.

@dfols18: thankful for golf... time spent with my dad before he passed and now the time spent with my daughter teaching her the game.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.