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.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”