The best, the burly, the bonehead: 2011 year of travel in review

By Brandon TuckerDecember 31, 2011, 6:40 pm

In 2011, I teed it up on nearly 100 golf courses ranging from Hawaii to Scotland, from posh spots like the St. Regis Princeville to bargain spots off I-95 like Santee, South Carolina. 

Over some holiday chili dogs and egg nog, I took a little time to reflect on the highs, the bargains, and the bizarre...

Best resort golf deal: For $50 a month, you can play golf at 4 p.m. until sunset at Ka'anapali Golf Club on Maui. It's part of the 'Fit Club' they introduced recently to encourage walkers. I played and got in 14 holes before walking in (the Kai course usually runs over $100). 

The catch, you ask? None I can think of. 

Wackiest golf hole: I've never played a quarry golf course that didn't have at least one hole that raised your eyebrows. In Nebraska, Iron Horse Golf Club's 10th fairway bottlenecks between water and the quarry wall. All three shots on this par-5 are every bit as penal as the picture:

Iron Horse No. 10 

Most memorable course name: Few golf courses in the world roll off the tongue quite like Santee-area's Wyboo Golf Club. The sticker price, about $28 to play a solid, Tom Jackson design, is equally memorable. 

Biggest bonehead: That would be this guy, who didn't heed his GPS warning and drove straight into rocks at La Cantera and off to E.R. 

Golf Cart accident

Best model golf operation: No developer should be allowed to build a golf course until they've visited WildHorse Golf Club out in Gothenburg, Nebraska. This humble operation off I-80 has a meager clubhouse and no-name course architects. But the course is in phenomenal shape, walkable and the design is fantastic.

Even better, anyone can play it for under $50, and locals can buy season passes for about $500. 

Best 'value' digs: In Augusta, our room at America's Best Value Inn on Washington Road was about $150 a night during Masters week (about triple what it normally costs) and included a free breakfast and happy hour. Once I caught wind of houses charging upwards of $30,000-$40,000 for the week around Augusta, suddenly $150 for two beds within walking distance of Magnolia Drive seemed like a steal. 

Best power lunch: I think I got as many stock tips as golf tidbits during my lunch with the always business-savvy Greg Norman at Sandals Emerald Bay. 

Best way to grow the game: I can't think of a better way to introduce a novice to the game of golf than an hour or two at TopGolf, a new driving range concept that's gaining steam in the U.S. If there isn't one near where you live now, just wait a couple years, as up to 50 locations are in planning stages. 

Most bizarre driving range site: A cold spell in Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open caused a malfunctioning sprinkler head at Troon North Golf Club's driving range: 

icy sprinkler

Best way to kill jetlag: Walking around Royal Dornoch in the Highlands at 4 a.m., watching the sunrise and getting the sea breeze in your face is a great way to kick off a week of links golf. 

Most unique happy hour: Mussels are so abundant around Prince Edward Island that a lot of places don't even charge you for them; they're simply in a cooler at the corner of the bar and you can help yourself. One of the best spots is at Glasgow Hills Golf Club, which features a clubhouse perched overlooking green hills and the Atlantic Ocean, where you can enjoy a cold beer, fantastic view and as many fresh mussels you can pry open. 

Best course to ball hock: The Plantation Course at Kapalua's fairways are some of the widest in golf - and apparently not wide enough. I must have found 40 usable balls during my twilight round - and by the back nine I was getting picky, saving room in my bag only for the best quality stuff. Green fees are over $200 at Kapalua, but at least you can make a lot of it back with used Pro-V1s.

Best wildlife encounter: Without a doubt, it'd be the multiple bear sightings at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club. It's not every day a bear and cub stumble upon the tee box in front of you:

Bear and cub

Luckiest bounce: By the time I got to the 17th tee on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, my swing was in shambles, thanks to Pete Dye's treacherous design revealing every little flaw in my error-prone game. Then, on golf's most famous tee box, I bladed a pitching wedge straight towards the left side of the island with little hope it would find land. Somehow, the ball smacked into the top of the bulkhead, jumped over water and landed safely on the grass behind the green. I may not have made the green, but I didn't find water, either. That's a 'push' for me. 

'Overachieving Butler' award: Paul the Butler surely knew I was visiting the Sandals Emerald Bay on my own for a press trip; a rare solo traveler at this Bahamas getaway geared towards couples. But that didn't stop him from creating this romantic bathtub scene in my guest room:

Butler bath

Favorite golf course played in 2011: I played an old favorite, Royal Dornoch, and also a few great new ones like Castle Stuart and Dormie Club. But it's tough to think of a better all-around day of golf and travel than in Bend, Oregon at the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Golf Club. The scenery, the design, the conditions, the sunny weather and the accommodations (not to mention all sorts of other activities like mountain biking, fishing and even skiing) makes this one of the best travel experiences you could ever draw up. A day of golf and mountain biking gets the nod for my favorite day on the road in 2011. 

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Randall's Rant: Woods' message to young rivals: Bring it on!

By Randall MellAugust 13, 2018, 11:24 pm

Bring it on!

OK, I’m not fluent in body language, and maybe that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods was communicating with his exuberant fist pump after closing out a 64 Sunday at the PGA Championship, but there was so much hope in the excitement he let loose with his closing birdie.

Hope beyond what was still going on behind him at Bellerive.

Hope in what lies ahead.

Bring it on!

You know Woods wanted Brooks Koepka to hear his legion roar, to let Koepka know he better not stumble back there behind him. You know he also wanted Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and all today’s stars to hear all those roars, to let them know he’s finally fit for a fight again.

Bring it on!

Yes, Koepka refused to flinch, and Woods ultimately finished second, but that rollicking last fist pump told you what Sunday’s finish meant to Woods.

He’s going to win again.

That’s the confidence won closing the way he did, celebrating at the 72nd hole in a way we’ve only ever seen him do on his way to hoisting a trophy.

Because that’s where he is headed again.

He can and will win again.

Bring it on!

That’s the thrilling promise Sunday brought to all of golf.

Koepka wasn’t about to get out of Woods’ way, in the fashion the players of another era seemed to do when weekend roars preceded a Woods stampede. Koepka did today’s players a favor sending his own message. He was a rock. He didn’t flinch and didn’t fold in the wake of all those deafening Tiger roars.


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If Koepka flinches Sunday, it sends the wrong message to all these other young guys. It gives them all pause. It makes them all wonder if Tiger’s aura really does come with some unfair advantage, with a one- or two-shot advantage in his ability to ride the noisy chaos to heights they can’t. We heard more than one young star complain this spring about the boisterous crowds that followed Woods.

These young guys don’t need that in their heads.

So Koepka didn’t back down, and Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, Spieth, Day, Fowler and Rahm aren’t likely to, either.

That’s the great fun Woods’ comeback brings. The battles all these young guys say they want with the legend are real possibilities now, with all those Tiger birdies and Tiger roars confirming Sunday that he is ready to begin giving them what they want.

“I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger,” Jordan Spieth said during The Open last month. “Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true, just to have the opportunity.”

The wonder in Sunday’s finish is that Woods was so good spraying his driver all over the place early in the round. Back in the day, he would have said he shot that 64 with his “B” game. You won’t hear him say things like that now, but the beauty in the round was knowing how he may have turned a 70 into a 64. It was in knowing how much better he still might get on these old legs.

It’s a shame we have to wait eight months for the Masters to see if his run of T-6 at The Open and 2nd at the PGA Championship continues on a majestic trajectory, because the message I heard in his last fist pump is still ringing in my ears.

Bring it on!

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Eight Men, Four Women Advance to "Tennessee Big Shots," Airing Monday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. ET Live on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2018, 7:25 pm

Airing Live on Golf Channel, Fourth Televised Event of 2018 is Final Tour Stop Prior to Season-Culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship

Field Boasts Six of Top-10 in World Led by No. 1 Justin James, Three-Time 2018 Winner Will Hogue; & Two-time World Champion Phillis Meti

The World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season continues tonight with the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital, airing live at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The live telecast will showcase the eight men and four women having advanced from preliminary rounds where they’ll compete in single-elimination matches until respective champions are crowned. The Open (Men’s) Division field will feature six of the top-nine competitors in the World Long Drive rankings, including No. 1 Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) along with Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), who has accumulated three wins to-date in 2018. The Women’s Division will feature two-time world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) and Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.,) who won the Clash in the Canyon earlier this year. Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.,) also is returning from injury in her first competition of 2018 in what will be a de-facto “home game,” while LPGA Tour player Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) is the fourth semifinalist, competing in her first-ever WLDA competition.

“We’ve finally reached the home stretch of the season,” said Jonathan Coachman, play-by-play host for World Long Drive Association events on Golf Channel. “With the World Championship only weeks away, the competitors understand the need to be on their game. I’ve always said that champions show up anytime, anywhere, for anything. They better have that mind-set, beginning with tonight’s Tennessee Big Shots.

 

OPEN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL MATCHES (Seeded by world ranking):

(1) Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. (25) Wes Patterson (St Louis, Mo.)

(5) Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. (8) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.)

(4) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (9) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

(2) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (24) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

 

WOMEN’S DIVISION SEMIFINAL MATCHES:

Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.) vs. Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand)

Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.) vs. Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.)

 

Being staged from Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport, Tenn., the inaugural event – in partnership with Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital – is the fourth WLDA event of 2018 scheduled to air live on Golf Channel. Tennessee Big Shots is being contested in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. The eventalso marks the penultimate WLDA competition of the year, with the season-culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Tennessee Big Shots will air on Golf Channel from 6-8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 13, with Golf Central previewing the event from 5-6 p.m. ET. Encore showings of the competition are scheduled to air on Golf Channel following the live telecast, from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET and 12:30-2:30 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. An overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) will display the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

BROADCAST TEAM: Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play alongside Art Sellinger, World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91). Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Tennessee Big Shots by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Tennessee Big Shots leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

 

2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

DATE

EVENT

LOCATION

WINNER(S) / DEFENDING CHAMP

March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

Justin Moose

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

Alexis Belton, Will Hogue

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

Phillis Meti, Will Hogue

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

Sandra Carlborg, Mark Costello

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

Will Hogue

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Rowan, Ont., Canada

Ryan Steenberg

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

Kyle Berkshire

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

(New Event)

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

Sandra Carlborg, Justin James

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events throughout 2018 are staged through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, along with an all-encompassing international qualifier for the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

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Making Ryder Cup picks: Furyk begins his toughest task

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2018, 6:41 pm

ST. LOUIS – By the time Brooks Koepka teed off for the final round of the PGA Championship, Jim Furyk was already back at his rental house and settled in to watch what would be an eventful final round.

Furyk's day was just getting started.

Although he’d been up since dawn and had already put in a full day at Bellerive with a 7:56 a.m. tee time, Sunday began a process the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has prepared for and anticipated for two years.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week,” Furyk conceded on Sunday following a closing 71 at Bellerive. “At times I found myself with my mind wandering. The afternoon tee times I’m sitting around in the morning and my mind starts wandering and I start looking at stats and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. There’s a million things going on.”

The American captain is officially on the clock. The final round of the year’s final major was the deadline to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup team, and Furyk now begins the process of narrowing the list of potential captain’s picks.

Davis Love III, who took two turns in the captain’s chair, will tell you this is the toughest part of the gig. Forget about pairings and course setup and vice captains - getting the picks right is what separates a good captain from a great one.

“I saw him around this week kind of frazzled like I was; they are pulling him everywhere,” Love said. “Now it’s a tough couple of weeks. At dinner the other night we were talking about what we were going to do [regarding picks] and I was like, ‘Well, you have to wait for [Sunday] and you’ll get a better idea.”

On that front, the wait is over. The top eight players on the U.S. point list are now locked in and Furyk and his vice captains – Love, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods – can begin the artful process of creating a list of possible picks based on a wide variety of criteria.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


The automatic qualifiers are Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, who held on to the final spot thanks to his tie for 19th at the PGA.

“For some guys we’re going to look at the body of work for a year, for some players we’re going to look at a hot player right now, some guys we’re going to look at pairings and how they fit into the team we have right now,” Furyk said.

Furyk will make three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3 following the Dell Technologies Championship and his final selection a week later after the BMW Championship.

The short list of possible picks would include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau, Nos. 9 through 15, respectively, on the final point list.

Schauffele and Finau had something of a playing interview at Bellerive when they were paired with Furyk for Rounds 1 and 2.

“Tony made a pile of birdies, he’s explosive as far as firepower and how far he hits it but I was impressed with his putting, to be honest with you. I knew he could hit it far and kind of knew how he played, but he really played well,” said Furyk, who also played with Finau on Saturday at the PGA.

Mickelson will be a particularly interesting option for Furyk. For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, which began in 1995, Lefty failed to qualify for the U.S. side and the de facto team room front man would be tough to pass over.

“His game has been in a good position all year, he’s putted great, I think Jason Day is the only player with better putting stats this year,” said Furyk, who met with Mickelson after he missed the cut in St. Louis. “He’s working on a couple of things in his game right now that we talked about.”

Woods also creates some interesting scenarios. His runner-up finish at the PGA vaulted him from 20th to 11th on the final point list and essentially assured what many believed to be a foregone conclusion. Woods will be among Furyk’s captain’s picks, the only real question when it comes to the 14-time major champion is whether he can play and drive a vice captain’s cart.

“He’s on that list we’ve talked about and I think we still need to hash that out,” Furyk said. “Is it possible [to do both jobs]? Sure, we just need to decide if that’s best for the team.”

If Woods and Mickelson have already been penciled in as picks, which many believe they have, that essentially leaves a half dozen players vying for the final two spots.

An 11th-hour charge over the next three weeks could certainly sway Furyk, and he’s made it clear that Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches outside of Paris, favors a certain type of game, think a fairways-and-greens type like Kisner or even Brian Harman, who finished 17th on the point list.

“I’ve taken a look at the golf course and what I think will really work,” Furyk said.

There’s also an undercurrent of interest in Furyk going young with his picks to give a player like DeChambeau or Schauffele a chance to experience the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup “road game,” but Furyk didn’t seem as interested in developing future talent as he is in winning.

“Our goals for long term are important and young blood is a good thing, but I would never sacrifice this team or 2018 for 2022,” he said. “The goal is still to go to Europe and try to retain the cup. That said, having a mix of veteran and young players is a good thing.”

If Furyk sounds a little vague when it comes to his potential picks it should be no real surprise. Getting the picks right is the most demanding part of any captain’s job and he’s just getting started.

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Lowry calls out official over drop ruling at PGA

By Will GrayAugust 13, 2018, 6:00 pm

Despite the fact that Shane Lowry matched his best worldwide finish of the year at the PGA Championship, the Irishman didn't mince words over a frustrating ruling that played out late in the final round.

Lowry was 10 under and four shots behind Brooks Koepka when he stepped to the 16th tee, but he sailed his tee shot on the par-3 well right and behind a TV camera tower. What ensued was a lengthy delay as Lowry consulted with rules officials over whether he was entitled to a free drop and where he might take relief.

According to Lowry, the two officials failed to render a final decision and left it up to the player as to how to proceed. He eventually opted to play the ball from its original position next to the tower, pitching it into some rough in front of him and eventually making bogey. He also bogeyed the 17th, turning a possible top-5 finish into a tie for 12th.

"I think the referee didn't have the balls to make a decision there, and if he did I would have had an easier shot," Lowry told the Irish Times. "If you put (European Tour official) John Paramor or any of the good referees out there, and he would have given me full relief. But he wasn't giving me full relief, he was telling me to drop it in a tree basically."

Lowry's discussion with officials dragged on to the point that his playing competitor, Justin Thomas, opted to play out of turn with a pitch shot of his own. He also went on to make a bogey, but after the round told reporters that he didn't blame Lowry for how the situation played out.

"It had nothing to do with Shane. The rules officials were having a hard time coming up with a ruling," Thomas said. "They were kind of looking at each other and saying, 'Well, what do we do?' And Shane's like, 'Look, just tell me if I get a drop or not.' And I'm a quick player, and that's why I went."

Lowry's title chances were gone long before the rules fiasco, but his poor close had other ramifications. The 31-year-old's three-year exemption on the PGA Tour for winning the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational expires after this week's Wyndham Championship, and the T-12 finish at Bellerive only moved Lowry from No. 156 to No. 139 in the season-long points race with the top 125 retaining full cards for the 2019 season.