Atlanta Braves rebuild on the diamond remain strong on the golf course

By Erik PetersonMarch 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
Throughout March, GolfChannel.com will spotlight various MLB spring training locations throughout Florida. A total of 16 MLB teams visit Florida each spring during a time when the state's golf season is also in full swing. We highlight the options for golf and baseball in each region, giving you, the fan, the ultimate guide to golf and baseball in the Sunshine State. Play Ball!
 
ORLANDO, Fla. ' If youre a baseball fan, you know that during the 1990s the Atlanta Braves set the MLB standard for pitching. Future Hall of Fame hurlers Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux made up 'The Big Three.'
 
john smoltz
Former Brave John Smoltz has has caused some including Tiger Woods to believe he has a career on the Champions Tour.
If youre a golf fan, you know the Braves also set a high bar on the golf course. John Smoltz anchored the squad in that regard, and when he signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox this off-season not only did it mark the end of his 20-year run with the Braves, but it also meant the Braves staff of great golfers took a serious hit (Smoltz carries a 1.6 handicap).
 
Today, the Braves next generation is being developed. Leading the pack is 25-year-old right fielder, Jeff Francoeur, who, as it turns out, is also an excellent golfer (his handicap is 5). In fact, past and present got together for a friendly golf game last week. The venue: Orlando's Isleworth Country Club. The host: Tiger Woods. Asked before his round if he'd take it if the world's no. 1 gave him three shots a side, Francoeur managed a quick smile before his competitiveness intervened. 'Last time we played at Isleworth Tiger made eight birdies and I shot 77. Im probably going to ask him for four,' he said.
 

Q&A with the Atlanta Braves
Welcome to springtime in Orlando, Fla. This is where the weather feels like New England in July, and there are more golf courses than in the entire state of Maryland. And while golf is probably not the reason the Braves call Disneys Wide World of Sports their home for spring training, it sure helps when you have numerous excellent options for golf within 15 minutes of your stadium. And, as it turns out, all of them are open to the public.
 
The nearest collection of courses is on Disneys sprawling, 35-square-mile property. There are four Disney courses from which to choose, all of which are championship-caliber.
 

General Info on Braves Spring Training
The Magnolia and Palm courses host the PGA Tour Childrens Miracle Network Classic, the final event on the PGA Tour schedule. Its past champions include such notables as Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods.
 
At 6,957 yards, Magnolia is the longest and most difficult of the Disney courses, though its no match for PGA Tour players who find little trouble negotiating the courses nearly 100 bunkers and large, undulating greens. Both Palm and Magnolia provide a formidable challenge for the everyday golfer, however. The other two Disney courses are Lake Buena Vista and Osprey Ridge.
 
For another excellent collection of golf courses, head a few exits west on I-4 to Ginn Reunion Resort. Each of its three golf courses (Legacy, Tradition and Independence) is designed by a renowned architect (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, respectively). The surrounding luxury residential community is the spring training home of several Braves players, including catcher, Clint Sammons.
 
I love staying at Reunion, Sammons said. Theyre really good about getting us out on any of their three golf courses, plus, its really close to the stadium so its very convenient for us players.
 
Each course in Reunions trio is similar to the other in that its suitable for all skill levels, a design characteristic customary in the resort golf genre. However, undulating greens and the flexibility of its tee boxes allow Reunion to draw professional events such as the LPGA Ginn Open, while also catering to the everyday golfer.
 
If youre looking to buck the trend of a standard Disney vacation, the condo-style living at Reunion is an excellent alternative. It has a feeling all its own, yet is only 15 minutes from Disney. And with a water park and several pools, it remains family 'and Braves' friendly.
 
For another course thats a favorite among Braves players, head back toward Disney to the town of Celebration. Developed in the early 1990s by the Walt Disney Co., the town is a real-life Pleasantville, where most residences are painted shades of white, and large front porches provide a welcoming feel thats quintessential Disney.
 
And because no quaint little town is complete without a golf course, Celebration Golf Club opened in 1996. Carefully routed through natural wetlands, the course tips out at 6,792 yards, but has several sets of tees, including one for juniors. Adding to its family appeal is the fact that it was designed by the father/son team of Robert Trent Jones and Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
 
Head professional Kenny Nairn said its a common respite for Braves players, some of whom seek his keen eye for tips on their golf swing.
 
We have a great relationship with the Braves organization, Nairn said. Its amazing how competitive they are. Some of our staff and I will enjoy a friendly game with them, and they take it very seriously. Its evident they compete for a living.
 
But even when Braves players arent around, the course remains highly sought after. It prides itself on constantly changing for the better 'a new golf school is proof of such.
 
There are several possible itineraries for a spring training trip to Orlando, whether youre seeking a week with the family with baseball as just one of the options, or a weekend trip with as much golf and baseball crammed in as possible.
 
If you want to go the less expensive route, remember that most courses in the area have discount rates if you stay at their hotel, and/or book your tee time in the afternoon. Check out GolfNow.com for tee times at more than 20 Disney-area golf courses.
 
At the stadium, if you go the family route consider tickets in the outfield lawn. Although this option doesnt entitle you to a physical seat, the grassy hill is laid back, comfortable, and a great option for families with kids. Spread a picnic blanket out on the grass, flag down a cold beverage vendor and youve just discovered spring training bliss.
 
No matter how you decide to do it, attending a spring training game is a must for any avid baseball fan. And playing golf during spring training makes it even better. If John Smoltz and Jeff Francoeur can do it, then so can you!
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Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

Who’s the best at their best?

In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took him a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good, to be overlooked any longer.

And he’s far from done.

“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

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Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka