Q and A with John Smoltz

By Win McMurryMay 7, 2010, 11:33 pm

Golf Channel’s Win McMurry spoke with future Major League Baseball Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Smoltz Thursday from Boston. The former Atlanta Braves pitcher is playing in the qualifier Monday for the U.S. Open at Marietta Country Club in Kennesaw, Ga. Smoltz also will face off against former Braves teammate Tom Glavine in the season finale of Donald J. Trump's Fabulous World of Golf on May 17.

When did you begin playing golf?

I didn’t play until I was 19 years old. When I got to Class A ball I realized I had a lot of time on my hands so I took up golf and fishing. I’m just self-taught and as I traveled I just started playing more and more. It kept me from going crazy, kept me sane.

What golfer do you try to emulate?

I don’t know if there is one. In baseball I was able to emulate a lot of different things because I did it growing up, but I go about golf in my own unique way. So much like baseball growing up where I’d throw against a wall, I just went out there and tried to teach myself. I never had any lessons in baseball; I just watched on TV and tried to copy what I saw. But I never watched golf on TV until I got into golf.

You play to a plus-2 handicap, what was your best round and where was it? Who were you playing with?

My best round is 63. I shot it at the Floridian. I always say score isn’t indicative of your best round though. My best round was at Seminole. I had seven birdies and an eagle and had a chance at 18 to make the course record, or amateur record, but had another double bogey to shoot 67. But I could have shot 64.

Why did you decide to try to qualify for the U.S. Open this year for the first time?

Someone just told me I should do it – a club pro at Hawk’s Ridge. He told me to consider it and it happened to fit into a day I wasn’t doing TV or anything. It’s not like I’m beating a bunch of balls trying to qualify. I’m just trying to see how I do. It’s a good measuring stick for me. These other guys out there I know will have been trying really hard to get ready but I just think it’s going to be interesting to see how I stack up.

Is the U.S. Open the major you like the most?

What’s funny is I like watching it the most. Not playing it. It’d be the ultimate challenge. Like trying to survive an All-Star line-up in four straight starts. You’re going to suffer because you’re playing the best. It’s the most humiliating test of golf. It’s funny because it’s set up for a different golfer for the straightest hitting golfer. You don’t have to be long, just keep it in the fairway. . . and by the way it wouldn’t be me. I like to bomb it.

What do you feel your chances are of qualifying?

My schedule hasn’t let me play. But I think I’ll be able to shoot between 66 and 75. We’ll just have to see which me shows up out there!

How many times have you played Pebble Beach and what’s been your best round there?

I had the dream day off, an off day before we went to San Francisco. We drove down and played Cypress Pointe in morning, Spyglass in the afternoon, and then Pebble the morning of the next day game. At those three I shot par at Cypress, 1 or 2 under at Spyglass…and I think my best was 72 or somewhere around par at Pebble. But I don’t have a chance to play these courses in prime condition. It’s usually after a ton of people have been playing them.

I know that you and Tiger Woods are friends and have played many rounds together. If you do get into the U.S. Open, would you let Tiger Woods play a practice round with you?

I’m one of these guys, if I could live out a reality I’d have a hard time on the PGA Tour. I like guys talking to me. In golf there doesn’t seem to be much conversation. I just like to have fun and talk. I mean I’m grinding, but even in the midst of competition, I like to have fun out there.

Have you ever beaten Tiger, I’ve heard you’ve competed with him pretty closely?

I’ve come pretty close. We don’t play stroke play, it’s match or Nassau. But when the stars are aligned, I believe I’m going to. Tiger’s redefined golf as a sport and made it athletic. You know the greatest measure is if you can do it for four rounds and can you be better than the 120 or 140 or whatever they start off with in the field.

Of the top-100 golf courses in the world, how many do you feel you’ve played and what are your favorites?

Through baseball I think I’ve played 70 of the top 100 courses in the U.S. It’s difficult for me to rank the top-5. I’m a spoiled golfer. I like courses in premiere condition. I’ve always liked Butler National in Chicago, Oakmont, Pine Valley, Merion, and if I had a choice I’d rather play a Medinah or a northeastern course, I like all the grass they have to work with up there and the greens. Early in my career, I got to go to the San Francisco Golf Club and I didn’t know golf history or etiquette, it wasn’t until later when I realized what I had done and it was my first intro to golf in its place in history and tradition. Half Moon Bay was one of the first places I learned to play. And it’s so beautiful there with the holes by the water.

Have to ask you about the John Smoltz Country Club, the three-hole course you have in your backyard. Did you model any of the holes after favorite holes you’ve played?

It came together piece by piece. Every shot value was something I wanted to work on personally. A right to left here or if there was a certain distance I wanted to work on. My short game was all set up that way too. Honestly it’s one of the greatest toys in the world, and it’s made me a better golfer. It’s pretty unique. You can hit every shot in your bag in the backyard. I just love it.

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Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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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.