Get your golf on in Las Vegas

By Travel ArticlesDecember 6, 2012, 5:00 am

LAS VEGAS -- There's so much to see and do on a golf trip to Sin City.

The desert scenery from world-class golf courses like Cascata, The Wynn, Rio Secco, Bali Hai and TPC Las Vegas just can't be beat. The sights along the Strip after dark are just as intriguing. And I'm not even talking about the women wearing stilettos.

Every day during a recent stay at Caesars Palace I ran into something -- or someone -- amusingly fun and memorable.

I almost bumped into Zach Galifianakis near the elevators of the new Octavius Towers, home to grand rooms that are more comfortable than my own home. Later, I saw Ed Helms slip behind a curtain set up in a main hallway. The two were wrapping up the filming of the third 'Hangover' movie.

The following night, I passed several older couples wearing togas. It was, shall we say politely, unsightly.

Walking across the street to the Bellagio my last night, I couldn't help but notice Spiderman sitting at the bus stop. I was tempted to ask why he needed public transportation, but I thought twice about mocking a superhero on hard times. The next morning, the 'Doctor' himself -- NBA legend Julius 'Dr. J' Erving -- slipped out of a limo and handed the bellman a $50 bill. Only in Vegas, right?

From the shows and golf courses to the nightclubs and restaurants, there's nothing this town can't deliver.

Tyler Volk of Vancouver has visited the past several years with a large group of Canadians who call themselves 'Divots Adventure.'

'We love Vegas. We keep coming back,' Volk said. 'There is so much to do here. The quality of the golf is great. There is something for all, something for the partiers, gamblers, the serious golfers.'

On the golf course in Las Vegas

Las Vegas golf can be sorted out by price tiers. Two of the rounds priced north of $300 come on the Strip: Wynn Golf Club and Bali Hai Golf Club. Shadow Creek sits 20 minutes northeast of the Strip. And Cascata -- the signature golf experience associated with Caesars Palace -- is in Boulder City, a half-hour's ride to the southeast. For the record, they're all worth the splurge.

The golf clubs a half-step down in price are just as good as the upper echelon. Rio Secco Golf Club in Henderson features a gorgeous Jones golf course overlooking the Strip, along with the original Butch Harmon Golf School. Roughly a dozen PGA Tour pros regularly practice at the TPC Las Vegas, another reason besides an excellent desert-style track to visit the Summerlin area.

The best bang for the buck comes a half-hour from the Strip in the middle of nowhere at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. Pete Dye designed its three courses -- Snow Mountain, Wolf and Sun Mountain -- in a panoramic setting of the nearby mountains.

Those looking for something more affordable near the Strip can take a cab ride to Desert Pines Golf Club, run by Walters Golf, the same company that manages the tropical Bali Hai and the British-Open-themed Royal Links Golf Club.

At the dinner table

If there's a bad restaurant on the Strip, I haven't found it. Finding a succulent steak is easy. I've sampled the finest cuts of beef at SW Steakhouse at the Wynn Las Vegas; the Old Homestead Steakhouse and Mesa Grill Las Vegas, both inside Caesars; STK at The Cosmopolitan; Jean Georges Steakhouse in Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas and TENDER Steak & Seafood in the Luxor.

TENDER also offers one of the largest selections of wild game on the Strip. Try the Wild Boar Sausage as an appetizer or the Durham Ranch Bison Ribeye as a main dish.

Perio's Italian Cuisine delivers a welcoming change to all the steak/seafood joints of the casino hotels. The restaurant, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, oozes an old-school Italian vibe with a lounge singer most nights and private dining areas, which celebrities love. Scenes from the movie 'Casino' were shot here.

Caesars Palace has upped the ante on the traditional Las Vegas buffet by opening the Bacchanal Buffet (a.k.a. the Bacchanal Feast). The opening has created such a buzz that lines have been as long as four hours long to get in. The gorge-fest is definitely worth the wait.

The Country Club inside the Wynn Las Vegas rates in my book as the coolest golf course restaurant in America. It's got ambiance, scenery and fabulous food. The shrimp-and-grits appetizer is off the charts.

Las Vegas shows

It might not seem logical for a group of golfers (stereotypically dudes who love to gamble and crash bars) to see a show, but I'd highly recommend it. I hadn't seen one for two decades until attending Absinthe at Caesars Palace and Zarkana at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas last month. Both were weirdly spectacular.

The tiny tent outside Caesars where Absinthe is staged adds to the tension as performers show off their tricks within feet of the audience. I should be embarrassed to admit how funny Absinthe was, considering how risque and racially charged the humor was, but everybody else was laughing right along with me. The two German performers who wore leather and zoomed around on roller skates will forever haunt my dreams. I'll leave you with two words only insiders will understand: Puppy show.

Zarkana's plot (or lack thereof) didn't catch my imagination, but some of the acts sure did. The ball-bouncing woman and the two human hamsters -- you have to see them to believe their superhuman feats -- earned my utmost respect.

Who needs a down-on-his-luck Spiderman when you've got the marvelous miracle workers of Cirque du Soleil?

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.