Random musings of a gray-haired man

By Brandel ChambleeJuly 1, 2011, 12:23 am

Perhaps I am too young to reminisce but the gray-haired man that stares back at me in the morning thinks otherwise, so what follows are the ramblings of a broken-down pro in no particular order.

My rookie year on Tour I was paired with Jeff Sluman in the third round of the Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic. Jeff was an established player having his best year and I had been struggling but was having my best week. During the round, our scorer – a very attractive woman – was at every chance talking to Jeff, who is enormously clever and funny, but was understandably more concerned with his golf.

When we were done and in the scoring tent, Jeff and I were checking our scorecards as the scorer called out each hole. While she was calling my scores, I saw her slide a note to Jeff which had her phone number written in the top right hand corner. After reading the note, Jeff held up his left hand which had a gold band on the ring finger and using the thumb of his left hand pushed the inside of the band up and down so as to make the band move and said quietly, “You see this? It means commitment, but thanks for thinking of me,” and then he got up and walked out of the trailer.

In April of 1986, I was playing in an obscure mini tour event in Savannah, Ga. run by a shady group of investors. On Tuesday night of that week, I was in the lobby of my hotel playing a game of pool with a friend when a tall, dark-haired man whom I recognized immediately walked in. He ordered a beer from the waitress who gushed at him and then he leaned against the wall and watched our game of 8-ball. He didn’t say a word but he might as well have been screaming at the top of his lungs. Seve Ballesteros, the best player in all of golf, was in town tuning up for The Masters.

Over the next few hours we played several games of pool as he lamented how it was that he came to be in Savannah and playing in an event in which the total purse wouldn’t pay his typical appearance fee anywhere else in the world. Banned from playing the PGA Tour because he didn’t play the minimum number of events in 1985, Seve could only play in New Orleans as the defending champion and the majors as bodies other than the PGA Tour governed them.

In preparation for the year’s first major he was trying to get acclimated to the time change and in need of competition because he had been tending to his ill father and not his golf game. The next day his father would pass away hastening his exit but not before it occurred to all of us in the event how silly the impasse was between him and Ponte Vedra Beach. Ironically, the Tour is currently on the cusp of facing a similar standoff from this point forward owing to the international laden world rankings.

On Sunday morning of the 1987 British Open, I was standing in the breakfast line in player dining when an old man, dressed handsomely, asked me to join him at his table. Strained for time and consumed with thoughts of my upcoming round, I thought about declining with apologies owing to time constraints but alas, I sat down.

The man was three-time British Open champion Henry Cotton whose last victory in the Open came in 1948 at the very course I was playing that day, Muirfield. He talked about the need to control the ball through “training the hands” and he explained the proper hand action and then, picking up the club beside him, went into greater detail. I was the best, he said, because I could hit it here every time, as he pointed to the dime-sized worn spot on the center of the face of the 4-wood. He then showed me his grip and he talked about the placement of the fingers and the proper pressure needed to bring the club into the ball.

A few months later, on December 22, 1987 I read of Henry Cotton’s passing and the world of golf mourned one of its greatest and most influential players.

At the 2000 U.S. Open on Saturday, the wind blew how it can on any course by the sea and how you pray it doesn’t. Paired with Nick Price, I played miserably. My fortune would change around dinner time, as my best friend Jack Harden, his wife Nancy and I were able to get Greg Norman’s unclaimed table for dinner because he had missed the cut and understandably left town. After a great meal, I headed to my room, which was at the Lodge overlooking the first tee.

Around midnight I heard a knock on the door and slumbering over to the peep hole, I saw Jack standing at my door with a few clubs tucked under his arm, scotch in one hand, a cigar in the other. I opened the door smiling because I knew what he was up to. “Pro,” he said, “come keep me company as I play the 18th.”

A few minutes later Jack, Nancy, and I were standing on the 18th tee and Jack was hitting one tee shot after another into the night, over the ocean and hopefully onto the fairway. After Jack hit 10 or 15 tee shots, we ambled to the fairway talking about golf, golf swings and the not insignificant fact that Tiger was decimating the field in this, the national championship.

We found most of his tee shots and then he launched another volley of shots at the green where there stood maybe 40 people with similar, but not nearly as well-thought-out plans on how to toil away the night. Upon arrival to the green, we were greeted to applause and some comical commentary and then we all stood enjoying the sounds of the crashing waves and the sight of the moonlight reflecting off the ocean.

The next day Tiger, would of course win by 15 but as my second shot sailed across the ocean and jumped up on the 18th green, I looked at Jack and Nancy and we all smiled like I had just won the U.S. Open.

I can’t remember what I shot at Westchester, the British Open or the U.S. Open but I can tell you why I always pull for Jeff Sluman and pulled for Seve Ballesteros, what Henry Cotton’s hands looked like on the club and what Pebble Beach looks like at midnight. I know these memories – and others like them – don’t fill a trophy case, but they keep me company like trophies never could.

Getty Images

M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

Getty Images

After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

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

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner

On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell

On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

Getty Images

Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

Getty Images

Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."