Get your golf on in Las Vegas

By Travel ArticlesDecember 6, 2012, 5:00 am

LAS VEGAS -- There's so much to see and do on a golf trip to Sin City.

The desert scenery from world-class golf courses like Cascata, The Wynn, Rio Secco, Bali Hai and TPC Las Vegas just can't be beat. The sights along the Strip after dark are just as intriguing. And I'm not even talking about the women wearing stilettos.

Every day during a recent stay at Caesars Palace I ran into something -- or someone -- amusingly fun and memorable.

I almost bumped into Zach Galifianakis near the elevators of the new Octavius Towers, home to grand rooms that are more comfortable than my own home. Later, I saw Ed Helms slip behind a curtain set up in a main hallway. The two were wrapping up the filming of the third 'Hangover' movie.

The following night, I passed several older couples wearing togas. It was, shall we say politely, unsightly.

Walking across the street to the Bellagio my last night, I couldn't help but notice Spiderman sitting at the bus stop. I was tempted to ask why he needed public transportation, but I thought twice about mocking a superhero on hard times. The next morning, the 'Doctor' himself -- NBA legend Julius 'Dr. J' Erving -- slipped out of a limo and handed the bellman a $50 bill. Only in Vegas, right?

From the shows and golf courses to the nightclubs and restaurants, there's nothing this town can't deliver.

Tyler Volk of Vancouver has visited the past several years with a large group of Canadians who call themselves 'Divots Adventure.'

'We love Vegas. We keep coming back,' Volk said. 'There is so much to do here. The quality of the golf is great. There is something for all, something for the partiers, gamblers, the serious golfers.'

On the golf course in Las Vegas

Las Vegas golf can be sorted out by price tiers. Two of the rounds priced north of $300 come on the Strip: Wynn Golf Club and Bali Hai Golf Club. Shadow Creek sits 20 minutes northeast of the Strip. And Cascata -- the signature golf experience associated with Caesars Palace -- is in Boulder City, a half-hour's ride to the southeast. For the record, they're all worth the splurge.

The golf clubs a half-step down in price are just as good as the upper echelon. Rio Secco Golf Club in Henderson features a gorgeous Jones golf course overlooking the Strip, along with the original Butch Harmon Golf School. Roughly a dozen PGA Tour pros regularly practice at the TPC Las Vegas, another reason besides an excellent desert-style track to visit the Summerlin area.

The best bang for the buck comes a half-hour from the Strip in the middle of nowhere at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. Pete Dye designed its three courses -- Snow Mountain, Wolf and Sun Mountain -- in a panoramic setting of the nearby mountains.

Those looking for something more affordable near the Strip can take a cab ride to Desert Pines Golf Club, run by Walters Golf, the same company that manages the tropical Bali Hai and the British-Open-themed Royal Links Golf Club.

At the dinner table

If there's a bad restaurant on the Strip, I haven't found it. Finding a succulent steak is easy. I've sampled the finest cuts of beef at SW Steakhouse at the Wynn Las Vegas; the Old Homestead Steakhouse and Mesa Grill Las Vegas, both inside Caesars; STK at The Cosmopolitan; Jean Georges Steakhouse in Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas and TENDER Steak & Seafood in the Luxor.

TENDER also offers one of the largest selections of wild game on the Strip. Try the Wild Boar Sausage as an appetizer or the Durham Ranch Bison Ribeye as a main dish.

Perio's Italian Cuisine delivers a welcoming change to all the steak/seafood joints of the casino hotels. The restaurant, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, oozes an old-school Italian vibe with a lounge singer most nights and private dining areas, which celebrities love. Scenes from the movie 'Casino' were shot here.

Caesars Palace has upped the ante on the traditional Las Vegas buffet by opening the Bacchanal Buffet (a.k.a. the Bacchanal Feast). The opening has created such a buzz that lines have been as long as four hours long to get in. The gorge-fest is definitely worth the wait.

The Country Club inside the Wynn Las Vegas rates in my book as the coolest golf course restaurant in America. It's got ambiance, scenery and fabulous food. The shrimp-and-grits appetizer is off the charts.

Las Vegas shows

It might not seem logical for a group of golfers (stereotypically dudes who love to gamble and crash bars) to see a show, but I'd highly recommend it. I hadn't seen one for two decades until attending Absinthe at Caesars Palace and Zarkana at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas last month. Both were weirdly spectacular.

The tiny tent outside Caesars where Absinthe is staged adds to the tension as performers show off their tricks within feet of the audience. I should be embarrassed to admit how funny Absinthe was, considering how risque and racially charged the humor was, but everybody else was laughing right along with me. The two German performers who wore leather and zoomed around on roller skates will forever haunt my dreams. I'll leave you with two words only insiders will understand: Puppy show.

Zarkana's plot (or lack thereof) didn't catch my imagination, but some of the acts sure did. The ball-bouncing woman and the two human hamsters -- you have to see them to believe their superhuman feats -- earned my utmost respect.

Who needs a down-on-his-luck Spiderman when you've got the marvelous miracle workers of Cirque du Soleil?

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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”