Punch Shots: Which bowl game is ranked No. 1 for golf travelers?

By Brandon TuckerDecember 8, 2011, 5:00 pm

Which bowl game this season features the best mix of great golf courses and the best football teams? Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker debate. 

Tucker: Go Green with Sparty in Tampa for the Outback Bowl 

This bowl season, I'm most intrigued by the 'Ain't get no respect' Outback Bowl in Tampa between two conference championship losers: Michigan State and Georgia. Both squads were snubbed out of a BCS appearance in favor of bitter rivals that didn't even make the conference title game: Michigan and Alabama.

So Sparty and Uga should have a chip on their shoulder come January 2nd when they clash at Raymond James Stadium. If you have tickets to this matchup in your holiday plans, come a few days early and book a few tee times. Tampa is one of the best winter golf destinations in the U.S. with a course that fits any budget. 

Area golf starts at the 72-hole Innisbrook Golf Resort, the best stay-and-play property in the bay. Plenty of respect is given to the Copperhead Course, a beloved tour stop during the Transitions Championship on the PGA Tour's Florida Swing. 

If you're a fan of Tom Fazio golf courses, make the drive an hour north to World Woods for Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks. These are two of the most affordable Fazio courses in existence. GolfNow currently shows tee times for as low as $40. Show up early enough and you could squeeze in all 36. 

More area championship golf can be had at the TPC Tampa Bay, which features a tournament-worthy design plus lots of native wildlife in the many ponds and lagoons. Or, play former JCPenney Classic host (where PGA Tour and LPGA golfers used to team up) Bardmoor Country Club, which was renovated in 2003 by Gary Koch. 

If you like checking out collegiate golf facilities, take on The Claw at University of South Florida, located just minutes from the Outback Bowl, and be sure your mascot head covers are proudly on display. 

Bailey: The Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix-Scottsdale boasts the best football and golf

The most intriguing bowl matchup of this year's college football post season isn't the BCS National Championship game, but the one that features the third and fourth-ranked teams respectively, Oklahoma State University and Stanford. It features two high-powered offenses in what will surely be a touchdown fest (not field goals)  at this year's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

The location is also in one of the best winter destinations in the country, especially if you love golf. The Phoenix-Scottsdale area has more than 200 golf courses and most of them are pretty darn good, especially during the cooler months. Nothing against New Orleans, where this year's national championship game gives us a (yawn) rematch of Louisiana State University and Alabama, but neither the game nor the golf locale there are on the level of the Fiesta Bowl and Phoenix-Scottsdale, especially in January.

Take Scottsdale, for example. One of the reasons the courses are so good is the amount of overseeding they go through. In fact, there's so much ryegrass on these fairways that they are really cool-season golf courses, meaning conditioning is better right after New Year's  than it is in late spring.

And where do you start, when you start talking about Valley of the Sun golf? On every corner, it seems, there's a Troon North, The Boulders, the TPC Scottsdale or We-Ko-Pa. One of my personal favorites, however, is Southern Dunes, a unique Fred Couples links-style course that's anything but desert golf. The grub alone at Southern Dunes (great chili and meatball soup) is worth the extra half hour out to Maricopa.

But enough of that. After watching the game and playing a whole lotta golf, you'll want a massage, and there is no shortage of resort spas in the area.  The Golden Door Spa at The Boulders Waldorf Astoria Resort is extraordinary, for example, and there are plenty others where that came from. Plus, add some great Mexican food, a shot or two of tequila and few hundred sports bars, and you've got the perfect location in January for the football fan and golfer in all of us.

After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell

On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Web.com Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Web.com Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.

Rookie Cook cruises to first title, Masters invite

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 9:57 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook was chased by proven PGA Tour winners all day at the RSM Classic.

Now the Arkansas player is one of them.

The PGA Tour rookie held off veterans Brian Gay, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner and Brian Harman on Sunday at the chilly, windy Sea Island Club's Seaside Course.

Cook closed with a 3-under 67 for a four-stroke victory over J.J. Spaun. The victory in the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year gave Cook a spot in the Masters next year.

''It was definitely exciting ... real brutal with the wind,'' Cook said. ''I got off to a slow start but I was able to keep my head level and know there was a lot of golf to be played. With the wind and those conditions, a lot could happen.''

Cook birdied three of his last four holes after the three-shot lead he began the day with slipped to one over Spaun. Cook made a 14-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to finish at 21-under 261.

Spaun shot a 66.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Gay, the oldest contender of the week at 45, eagled the par-4 18th hole from 161 yards with a 9-iron to break out of a five-way tie for third and finish at 16 under. He shot 68.

Kirk (71) and Kisner (68), past winners of the tournament, St. Simons Island resident Brian Harman (65) and Andrew Landry (67) tied for fourth at 14 under.

Cook, the 26-year-old from Little Rock, earned $1,116,000 and improved to third on the FedEx Cup points list.

It's the second year in a row that a rookie won the RSM Classic. Mac Hughes survived a five-way playoff to capture the title last year in a Monday finish.

Spaun, a stocky former University of San Diego player, made the biggest move of the day and twice cut Cook's lead to one shot - the last time on an 8-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th.

However, Spaun bogeyed No. 17 when he failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker, and Cook birdied No. 15 with a 4-footer and No. 17 with a 15-footer to seal the victory.

Spaun's birdie at No. 16 could have put him into a tie for the lead but he missed a 4-foot birdie attempt on the previous hole.

''That (Spaun's miss at No. 15) was big,'' said Cook, who said he's an obsessive leaderboard-watcher and knew exactly when Spaun had come within a shot.

Cook, who has Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley, carrying his bag, never slipped after a bogey at the second hole, just his second of the week. He missed only two fairways in the final round and made par after four of his five missed greens. He led the field in scrambling, converting 11 of 12 pars after missing greens, and tied for fourth by hitting 48 of 56 fairways.

''With Kip on the bag, he was able to keep me in the moment and keep me pressing instead of playing conservative,'' Cook said. ''There was a lot of stuff going on, mostly up here (tapping his head). My ball-striking was great and for the most part, my putting was great. Holding the nerves down, playing a good round in these conditions. ... I'm so happy.''