Hoops and Golf Complete your March Madness trip by adding a tee time
Here's a look at the golf scenes in the 14 cities that are hosting NCAA Tournament teams and their fans:
First round: March 15-16
University of Dayton (Ohio) Arena
Dayton could be a little on the cool side during these new first-round 'play-in' games, but weather permitting, check out Golf Club at Yankee Trace Golf in nearby Centerville. The city-owned 27-hole facility is well conditioned and challenging, especially the Championship Course. Another favorite, in nearby Clayton, is Moss Creek Golf Club, a Dennis Griffiths-Chi Chi Rodriguez collaboration. Or a little closer in town, check out Kittyhawk Golf Center (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/ohio-golf-courses/dayton-golf-courses/kittyhawk-golf-center), a 54-hole Dayton municipal and Ohio's largest public facility.
<h2>Second, third rounds: March 17-19</h2>
Pepsi Center, Denver
In March, Denver's weather could beautiful - or snowing. If any case, the area is loaded with options for all budgets. Fans of Jim Engh's unique design style will want to check out Fossil Trace (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/colorado/golden/fossil-trace-golf-club.html) in Golden. Pete and P.B. Dye have a couple courses in the area, including Colorado Open-host Green Valley Ranch (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/colorado/denver/green-valley-ranch-golf-club.html) by P.B., or play one of Pete's earliest Western courses, Riverdale Dunes (http://www.golfcolorado.com/courses/brighton/dunes-at-riverdale/). The Colorado Golf Association also recently added an affordable new golf course in 2010, CommonGround Golf Course (http://www.golfcolorado.com/courses/aurora/commonground/), designed by Tom Doak.
St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Fla.
Golf weather is usually terrific on the central Gulf Coast of Florida, so a trip to Innisbrook Resort (http://www.travelgolf.com/resorts/florida/innisbrook-golf-resort.html) in nearby Palm Harbor would make for a nice diversion. The resort's Copperhead Course (http://www.floridagolf.com/courses/palm-harbor/innisbrook-copperhead/), host of the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship, rates near the top of the list for tour pros. Other top choices n the area would include the TPC Tampa Bay (http://www.floridagolf.com/courses/lutz/tpc-of-tampa-bay/), which hosts a Champions Tour event, the Pine Barrens course at World Woods (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/florida/brooksville/pine-barrens-at-world-woods-golf-club.html) and Saddlebrook Resort (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/florida/wesleychapel/saddlebrook-at-saddlebrook-golf-tennis-resort-resort.html).
McKale Center: Tucson, Ariz.
Keep your fingers crossed that your alma mater plays here, because Tucson is probably the tournament's best golf destination. The first place to start is the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/arizona-golf-courses/marana-golf-courses/the-ritz-carlton-golf-club-dove-mountain-), the newest course in the area designed by Jack Nicklaus (http://www.worldgolf.com/golf-architects/jack-nicklaus.html) and home to the WGC Accenture Match Play. One of the best plays in the desert since the 1980s is Ventana Canyon Golf Club (http://www.golfarizona.com/courses/tucson/loews-ventana-canyon.htm), which has two really good Tom Fazio designs. And if you spent all your dough on tickets, Tucson has a solid, four-course municipal system, anchored by former LPGA host course Randolph Golf Course (http://www.golfarizona.com/courses/tucson/randolph-north.htm).
Verizon Center: Washington D.C.
The area around our nation's capital is rich with history and there are few golf courses in northern Virginia that capitalize on that. In Stafford, the Rick Jacobson-designed Augustine Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/virginia/stafford/augustine-golf-club-semi-private.html) is a hilly, tree-lined layout named for George Washington's father. There's Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/virginia/leesburg/raspberry-falls-golf-hunt-club-semi-private.html), a 7,200-yard upscale Gary Player design in the heart of Virginia's horse country and Bull Run Country Club (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/virginia-golf-courses/haymarket-golf-courses/bull-run-golf-club), another fine Jacobson design near Civil War battleground sites. And finally, about an hour south of D.C., you'll find the Pete Dye-designed Gauntlet G.C. (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/virginia/hartwood/the-gauntlet-golf-club.html) as well as Cannon Ridge Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/virginia/fredericksburg/cannon-ridge-golf-club.html) in Fredericksburg, where relics from major Civil War battles are readily visible.
<h2> Second, third rounds: March 18-20</h2>
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, N.C.
Considered one of the better cities in America to live, Charlotte is a decent golf destination as well. In town, you'll find the heralded Highland Creek Golf Club (http://www.northcarolinagolf.com/courses/charlotte/highland-creek-golf-club/), a well conditioned course with fast greens. The Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Rock Barn (http://www.northcarolinagolf.com/courses/conover/west-hills-north-ridge-at-rock-barn-club-of-golf/), located nearby Conover in the Blue Ridge foothills hosts a Champions Tour event and is open to the public. The area is also home to several good choices on the Carolina Golf Trail, including Birkdale Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/northcarolina/huntersville/birkdale-golf-club-public.html), Highland Creek Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/northcarolina/charlotte/highland-creek-golf-club-public.html), Tradition Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/northcarolina/charlotte/the-tradition-golf-club.html) and Charlotte Golf Links (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/northcarolina/charlotte/charlotte-golf-links-public.html).
United Center, Chicago
While March might not be golf month in Chicago, you could catch a break. If Mother Nature does cooperate, head over to the famous Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, starting with the Drubsdread Course (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/illinois/lemont/course-4-dubsdread-at-cog-hill-golf-and-country-club.html), host of the PGA Tour's BMW Championship. Originally designed by Joe Lee and Dick Wilson, the longtime home of the Western Open was redone in 2008 by Rees Jones. But many also report that the Ravines Course (http://www.golfillinois.com/courses/lemont/cog-hill-2/), often dubbed 'Baby Dubs,' is a better value and just as enjoyable. Other great options in the Chicago area include the Tom Fazio-designed Glen Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/illinois/glenview/the-glen-club.html) in Glenview, the 27-hole Cantigny Golf Club (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/illinois-golf-courses/wheaton-golf-courses/cantigny-golf) in Wheaton and Aldeen Golf Course (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/illinois/rockford/aldeen-golf-club-public.html), an excellent municipal value in Rockford.
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
If it's an early spring in Cleveland, check out what some of the top architects have built designs around the city. Pete Dye designed 27-hole Fowler's Mill (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/ohio-golf-courses/chesterland-golf-courses/fowlers-mill-golf-course) just east of the city, and is U.S. Open Qualifier caliber. One of the more scenic courses is the Michael Hurdzan-Dana Fry designed Little Mountain Country Club (http://www.golfohio.com/courses/concord/little-mountain-cc/), set in rolling, wooded hills of northeast Ohio. This heavily wooded, target-style course is on the shorter side at just 6,616 yards. But if you want tough and long, the Reserve at Thunder Mill (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/ohio-golf-courses/madison-golf-courses/thunder-hill-golf-club) rates one of the Cleveland area's toughest, with over 7,500 yards and a 78.5 rating.
BOK Center: Tulsa, Okla.
One of the best public plays in the Tulsa area is Forest Ridge Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/oklahoma/brokenarrow/forest-ridge-golf-club-public.html), a Randy Heckenkemper design in Broken Arrow, just east of downtown. It opened in 1989 as the area's first upscale public facility. Another excellent option in Broken Arrow is Emerald Falls Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/oklahoma/brokenarrow/emerald-falls-golf-club.html). Designed by Jerry Slack, the 7,200-yard Emerald Falls was named among the top 10 new public golf courses by Golf Digest in 2008. Or you could try the scenic White Hawk Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/oklahoma/bixby/white-hawk-golf-club.html), another good Heckenkemper design located in the Tulsa suburb of Bixby.
<h2>Southeast Regional, March 24-26</h2>
Louisiana Superdome: New Orleans
Another site that usually has good golf weather this time of year, New Orleans has plenty to offer. You might want to make your first stop at the Audubon Park Golf Course (dddd), a fun and well conditioned par 62 (it has 12 par 3s) in the heart of the city's Garden District. Audubon would make a great warm-up for the Pete Dye's TPC Louisiana (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/louisiana/neworleans/audubon-park-golf-course.html), one of the more accessible courses in the TPC network and host of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic. Or you could try the 27 holes of Stonebridge (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/louisiana-golf-courses/gretna-golf-courses/stonebridge-golf-course), a semi-private club located just minutes from downtown in Gretna.
<h2>West Regional, March 24-26</h2>
Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.
Congratulations on your team making it to the West Regional and sunny Anaheim, where it's bound to be prime golf weather in Orange County. High-end coastal golf is not too far away. Head south to Newport Beach about 15 miles to Pelican Hill Golf Resort (http://www.golfcalifornia.com/courses/newport-coast/pelican-hill-gc-north/), featuring 36 Tom Fazio-designed holes overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For a more affordable Fazio design, head inland to Oak Creek Golf Club (http://www.golfcalifornia.com/courses/irvine/oak-creek-gc/), which can often be booked under $100 at GolfNow.com (http://www.golfnow.com/). Or a little further down the price totem pole is Coyote Hills Golf Course (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/california/fullerton/coyote-hills-golf-course-public.html), a $50-$100 play that serves up 6,500 yards in foothills terrain.
<h2>Southwest Regional, March 25-27</h2>
Alamodome: San Antonio, Texas
Expect temperatures around 80 degrees in the Alamo City, which has become a true golf destination in recent years. You could stay and play at the new JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, home of the 36 holes of the TPC San Antonio. The AT&T Oaks course (http://www.golftexas.com/golf-courses/south/san-antonio/tpc-oaks.htm) and AT&T Canyon course (http://www.golftexas.com/golf-courses/south/san-antonio/tpc-canyons.htm) host the PGA and Champions Tour, respectively. The old site of the Texas Open, Westin La Cantera Resort (http://www.travelgolf.com/resorts/texas/the-westin-la-cantera-resort.html), also has 36 scenic holes; there's 27 beautiful holes at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, the city's old muni, Brackenridge (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/texas/sanantonio/brackenridge-municipal-golf-course-public.html), has been restored better than ever and now hosts the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.
<h2>East Regional, March 25-27</h2>
Prudential Center: Newark, N.J.
The Jersey side of metro New York City has some great golf courses, but they're all exclusive private clubs like Baltusrol Golf Club. Unfortunately, this isn't exactly a mecca of public-access gems. On the other side of Manhattan you can head out to Long Island and Bethpage State Park, home to five municipal golf courses anchored by the Black (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/newyork/farmingdale/black-at-bethpage-state-park-golf-course.html). You can also head just north of NYC to the new Pound Ridge Golf Club (http://www.golfnewyork.com/courses/pound-ridge/pound-ridge-cc/), an upscale, daily-fee course designed by Pete and P.B. Dye that features dramatic rock walls and a wealth of water hazards and wetlands.
<h2>Final Four and Championship, April 2-4</h2>
Reliant Stadium: Houston
Another good location to play golf this time of year, there are nearly 100 public golf courses in the Houston area. One must-play to first-time visitors is Tour 18 (http://www.golftexas.com/golf-courses/north-central/flower-mound/tour-18.htm), the original replica golf course, featuring look-alikes from Augusta National and TPC Sawgrass to name a few. If you can get a tee time at Redstone's Tournament Course (http://www.golftexas.com/golf-courses/south-east/houston/redstone-tournament.htm), conditions will never be better since the Shell Houston Open concludes April 3. Other good public plays include the 36 holes of Wildcat Golf Club (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/texas-golf-courses/houston-golf-courses/wildcat-golf-club), just minutes from Reliant Stadium, Timber Creek (http://www.golfnow.com/course-directory/texas-golf-courses/friendswood-golf-courses/timber-creek-golf-club---pines-course) on the south side, and the 36 holes of Cypresswood Golf Club (http://www.worldgolf.com/courses/usa/texas/spring/cypress-at-cypresswood-golf-club-public.html) on the north side in Spring.
by – Brandon Tucker and Mike Bailey
Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.
TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.
He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.
“Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”
Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.
The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.
“Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”
Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.
“Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”
Only putting is holding McIlroy back
CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.
McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.
McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.
“I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”
McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.
“I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”
Rosaforte Report: Toski lively, singing and ready to go home
Bob Toski sounded pretty good for a man near death last week. When we spoke on Friday, the 91-year-old teaching legend and former PGA Tour leading money winner was alive and feeling well. Especially when he was talking about giving lessons, swinging a golf club again, and going down to the piano bar at Arturo’s near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., to sing his favorite song, “Sentimental Journey."
“It’s been quite a journey,” Toski said in total bliss. “But I’m going home tomorrow.”
Going back 10 days, to June 12, Toski suffered a severe heart attack that had him on life support, in critical condition, at a hospital not far from the South Florida golf community where he’s pro emeritus at St. Andrews.
He opened 15 minutes on the phone on Friday by asking how much he owed me for the publicity he got during the U.S. Open. Typical Toski. His heart may have skipped a beat, but he hadn’t.
At no more than 120 pounds, still larger than life.
Bob Toski from his hospital bed in South Florida
“This is the mouse,” he said when asked to confirm it really was him on the phone. “The Mighty Mouse.”
We were laughing now, but there was a moment one night during “Live From the U.S. Open” when I got a message from the Boca hospital which sounded grim (hospital staff used a defibrillator on him six times during his stay). That’s when one of the friends by his side texted me and said it would be just like “Tosk” to sit up straight and ask everybody what was going on.
Essentially, that’s what happened. And now here he was on the phone, cracking off one-liners, talking about Brooks Koepka’s win at Shinnecock, giving his take on the USGA and course setup, asking how much I’d been playing, and giving his love to everybody at “The Channel.”
He invited me down for a lesson at St. Andrews and dinner at Arturos. “In a month’s time,” he said, “I’ll be ready to go.”
He sounded ready right now, singing a line from his favorite song, from his hospital bed in the happiest of voices, “Gotta set my heart at ease.”
Spieth fades with 3-over 73: 'It's just golf'
CROMWELL, Conn. – After finding nothing but positives for his first five trips around the course, Jordan Spieth finally suffered a setback at TPC River Highlands.
Spieth won the Travelers Championship last year in his tournament debut, and he quickly bounced back from a missed cut at Shinnecock Hills by firing a 7-under 63 in the opening round this week to take a share of the lead. Out early during the second round with a chance to move even further into red figures amid calm conditions, he instead went the other way.
Undone by a triple bogey on the par-5 13th hole, Spieth was 5 over for his first 14 holes and needed an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole for the second straight day simply to salvage a 3-over 73. The score knocked him back to 4 under for the week and six shots behind Brian Harman.
Despite finding three fewer fairways, three fewer greens in regulation and taking five more putts than he did in the opening round, Spieth still put a positive spin on a lackluster result.
“I actually felt like I had better control of my golf swing than I did yesterday. I really struggled with my swing yesterday and I kind of got some good breaks,” Spieth said. “It’s just golf. It’s kind of like yesterday I got three or four shots extra out of the round, and today I lost three or four based on how I felt.”
Spieth was happy with his opening-round effort, but even after finishing late in the day he still went straight to the driving range that lines the ninth fairway at TPC River Highlands – not exactly standard behavior after grabbing a share of the lead.
“So it’s not like things are on,” he said. “Sometimes it can get disguised by rounds, but it’s not far off. It really is close.”
Spieth has lamented a lack of quality chances to win this year, which he has previously described as being within six shots of the lead heading into the final round. He’ll have some work to do to meet that mark this weekend in defense of his title, as his round hit a snag on No. 13, his fourth hole of the morning, when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds and then hit his subsequent approach into the water.
“For whatever reason, it’s a large fairway but it’s always just killed me,” Spieth said. “I don’t know what it is about the hole, but that hole I get on the tee and for whatever reason I struggle. … I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time there.”