Musicians Lewis, Torres rock the golf course

By Rich LernerFebruary 10, 2015, 1:00 pm

Huey Lewis, 1980s pop-rock star, describes himself as a small businessman, happily playing what are, by now, oldies at countless charity golf events, sing-alongs for aging boomers who know all the words to “If This is It” and “I Want a New Drug.”

I’m in show business,” Lewis, who is playing in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, says with a laugh. “I’ll do anything for attention and money, usually in that order.

“Golf people are great people. Golf is a great game.”

Lewis loves golf as much as music. He’s not alone. Plenty of rock-‘n’-rollers tear it up at night, then tee it up in the morning.

In the old days a lot of things came with a night of rock 'n’ roll,” says Tico Torres, the longtime drummer for Bon Jovi.  “But the older you get the more sensible you get. Golf’s probably the only reason I would get up early in the morning after I go to sleep at 3 [a.m.]. You know, I would definitely get up at 7:30 to go play a round. It’s a special place that’s comfortable for us where there are no crowds. It’s just us.”

What happened? Rock 'n’ roll used to be anti-establishment. Golf is ultimate establishment. When did it become “Hip to be Square”?

“We dropped back in after the '60s, because the '60s were too scary,” Lewis explained. “I love the game and I don’t care if it’s cool or not.”

One of the first rock legends to unabashedly declare his love for the sport was Alice Cooper. His drinking had gotten out of control. Golf provided a healthier release. He claims the game saved his life.

Nicko McBrain, the drummer for the English metal band Iron Maiden, plays regularly, as do Ed Roland from Collective Soul and Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains.

“I think it’s a musician’s friend,” says Torres. “It gives you a little bit of sanity.”

Torres is known as the Hit Man, with albums like “Crush,” “Bounce,” “Keep the Faith,” “Lost Highway,” and hit songs including “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Miracle” and “Never Say Die,” each one a perfect metaphor for golf.

He grew up in New York City, the son of Cuban immigrants. His introduction to golf came while having lunch at Willie Nelson’s house, to which I replied, “When I think of lunch with Willie Nelson, you’ll forgive me, but I think greens were on the menu.” Tico laughed. “Yeah, we had a few greens. I’ll tell you I’ve met more interesting people through golf than my career as a musician.”

A solid 12 handicap who once shot 72, Tico estimates that he’s played with tour pros 60 times, including with Ernie Els at the Dunhill Links, where he learned that Ernie’s capable of busting more than golf balls. “After 16 holes,” remembers Torres, “he turned to me and said, ‘You know, Tico, for a drummer you have the worst timing in the world.’”

King Curtis’ sax player, a cat by the name of Willie Bridges, once gave Tico some musical advice that he finally applied to his golf game. “You ain’t the most technical drummer in the world, but you got good feel; so don’t try, just play.”

And so he does, from the heart, by feel, like his favorite golfer ever, Seve Ballesteros. Tico’s also an artist who’s cast the hands of golfers in bronze and not surprisingly he says the best set of mitts he’s ever seen belonged to the Spaniard.

If Seve was a musician, what instrument would he have played? “Violin,” says Tico. “Without a doubt, he’s a virtuoso.”

As low as a 6 handicap at one time, Lewis is an inveterate golf junkie. He wrote an album called “Fore,” and he’s glued to Golf Channel.

“We’re on the road a lot on the bus,” he explains. “We get satellite television. Brandel’s great. Brandel [Chamblee] says what he thinks. Sometimes I want to come in there and argue with him. You guys just fill air with like, who’s going to win and we all know it’s golf and nobody knows who’s going to win. But you’re going to try and tell us.”

Good shot, Huey, who’s also played plenty with the pros. His first AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am came in the mid-’80s after he watched Jack Lemmon on television. “Lemm was playing 18 on Saturday,” recalls Lewis. “And they showed every shot, all 12 of them. And I thought to myself, I’m so glad that’s not me. I’m so glad I didn’t do it. And the very next year, there I was on 18 striping it into the gallery.”

Lewis has learned to take it easy on the course. “You have to swing smooth,” he says. “And the same thing with hitting high notes.”

It can be unnerving when they’re out of their element, but rockers and golfers relate. They both perform before crowds. Both are measured by numbers, a score on a card or album sales.  

You know, it’s funny,” says Torres with a smile. “It’s like we want to be pro golfers when we play with them, but they want to be musicians. And it’s like, well, I’ll trade with you. They do pick your brains, stuff like how do you relax in front of 100,000 people?”

Even with the inevitable nerves that come with playing alongside the best in the world, Lewis will never get beaten in a game of who loves golf more, saying, “It’s a great game. It’s as competitive as you want it to be. It’s a great test of your character. It’s a sport of integrity. And it’s a great social sport. There are a million reasons to love golf.

“Golf absolutely fascinates me, because you have to surrender to the game.”

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.