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Hooks Cuts Bay Hill to Augusta

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  • ORLANDO, Fla. – I was at a MasterCard function earlier this week with Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter. Phil was every bit as sharp in this arena as he is from 100 yards. He recounted a time years ago when Monty was among the best in the world but, because he had not won in America, he struggled to draw favorable tee times and groupings, which rankled the rankle-able Scot. Phil sprung into action. On PGA Tour letterhead, he typed what appeared to be a letter from the Tour to Monty and put it in Monty’s locker. The letter explained that the Tour was pleased to have a player of his magnitude competing in its events, that it wished him only the best in all his competitive endeavors in the future, but that regarding his complaint about tee times and groupings, they had a suggestion: “win a #@%&* tournament!” Phil hit the punch line like a perfect 300-yard drive, and Monty and everyone in the room busted out laughing.

  • Arnold Palmer’s not about to push aside instructors like David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon. But considering how much his grandson, Sam Saunders, has improved since going to work with him, it’d be kind of cool to see other guys ring up the King for a lesson or two.    

  • The new practice facility at Augusta National is apparently a jaw dropper.

  • Monty revealed a story I’d never heard about the Sunday storming of the green at the 1999 Ryder Cup after Justin Leonard’s desperation bomb at the 17th. I asked him if he acknowledged that while it was a clear breach of etiquette on the part of the Americans that it was still unintentional. He said yes, because American wives and players who’d gathered by the green were listening to Radio 5 from Britain, and the announcer had said that if Leonard were to make the putt, the U.S. would win the Cup. When he did, they erupted thinking it was over.

  • Mickelson says he would welcome a pairing with Tiger Woods at the Masters. Phil at times plays better eyeball-to-eyeball with Tiger than he does with a run-of-the-mill Tour pro. He loves the attention. He loves the challenge. The press would love to turn it into a story of a hero and a villain.

  • Ian Poulter owns 300 pairs of golf shoes. He also now has 16 employees in his burgeoning clothing company with stakes in Europe and soon the U.S. It’s easy to feel schlubby around Poulter. The man is always well turned out.

  • Fred Couples playing the Monday practice round with Woods really helps Tiger.  Freddy is perceived as one of the game’s good guys, and it conveys the sense that if Freddy can welcome Tiger back then maybe everyone else could do the same.

  • Necessity may have forced his hand, but it is nice to see a legend like Palmer put his ego aside. It was no great secret on Tour that Bay Hill as a golf course had fallen out of favor with the players. So Arnold, seeing that big name guys had taken his event off their schedule, listened and made changes. The players now love it.  So what if winning scores are 14 under versus 5 under?

  • Hot topic bouncing around golf circles the last week is: Would a Tiger win at the Masters be good or bad for golf? It would be great for ratings unquestionably, but the fact that he could come back without even a tune up after four months away and win would unquestionably dent the relevance of every other player. No one likes to hear that Woods is the PGA Tour and I don’t buy that. But if he wins, you’ll probably hear it.

  • Ernie Els is as focused and solid as he’s been in a long time and for the first time in a few years he’ll bring considerable game to Augusta National. He’d look good in a green jacket.