Trip Dispatch: Relax, rejuvenate in Palm Springs during the Humana Challenge

By Mike BaileyJanuary 16, 2014, 3:07 pm

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Where there was once Hope is now the Humana Challenge. Gone are most of the big name celebrities who used to play in the this event when it was the Bob Hope Classic for the better part of a half century. But the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge and the Palm Springs area, which also has the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship, has moved on, perhaps much of it for the better.

Now the emphasis -- with Humana as the title sponsor, and the Bill Clinton Foundation as its partner – is health and well-being, and I can't think of a better place to find both. (The former president has been here all week in support of the tournament and his foundation.) Incredible mountain views, pure blue skies and spa resorts around every corner make this the perfect setting for rest and relaxation. And if you're like many golf fans spending the week out here for the Humana Challenge, you're going to do more than just watch, you've got to play golf as well. With more than 100 really cool courses in the area, this is golf Nirvana.

That's certainly been the case for me this week. With temperatures soaring into the 80s, the deep freeze that engulfed most of the rest of the country seems like a bad dream. My sampling this week has included courses that were once part of the Hope and some that could be. Yesterday, it was the SilverRock Resort in La Quinta, which is right next to where the Humana Challenge is taking place this week at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club.

Arnold Palmer's Classic Course at SilverRock was in the rotation for the tour event from 2008-2011, and while the PGA Tour pros ate it up, it's perfect for the golfers who live here or visit in the winter because it's not overly difficult, unless you tip it at 7,578 yards. Wide fairways and big greens make it very playable, but plenty of water and large bunkers provide challenge.

Not to be confused, another former Hope course, the Classic Club, was also on the agenda. Designed by Palmer as well, you might be surprised to find out that the Classic Club is non-profit, meaning the green fees aren't always exorbitant.

Along with the golf, of course, are the resorts, and there are no shortage of ways to relax. I've been staying this week at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa, which is next to two anything-but-typical municipal golf courses – the Players and Celebrity courses, which are owned by the city of Indian Wells. The courses, designed by John Fought and Clive Clark respectively, are simply fun, and the Celebrity Course is exceptionally stunning.

Photos: View more golf courses in the Greater Palm Springs area

The resort is everything you might expect from a Hyatt Regency and then some, including the Agave Sunset Bar, where you sample some of the best tequilas in the world, and the Agua Serena Spa, where you can get an "athletic restoration" massage treatment (translation: kneading, prodding, and stretching for those who are trying to recover from the bad shots of the day). If you’re not into that, though, no worries: Swedish massages and facials are on the menu, too.

Golf is just one form of recreation here. This is also a tennis mecca. I took a tour this week of the incredible Indian Wells Tennis Garden next door. Home of the BNP Paribas Open, which is held in March, it attracts all the top players in the world. The Tennis Garden has added a new Stadium 2, which holds 8,000 to go with Stadium 1 (16,600). Restaurants, beer gardens, giant TV screens and huge merchandising areas rival anything in professional golf.

The tour, however, was just one of the non-golf highlights of my week here. Yesterday after golf I managed to get a tennis lesson from former Davis Cup captain and player Tom Gorman over at La Quinta Resort. (Gorman and Stan Smith made tennis big-time in the Coachella Valley when they opened the La Quinta tennis center in 1980.) And there's more tennis, including grass and red clay courts -- at the Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, as well as two Ted Robinson resort courses that were recently overhauled. Again, those courses are great examples of Palm Springs area golf – perfect course conditions, spectacular scenery and golf that doesn't beat you up.

Here's more fun stuff: The Palm Springs Aerial Tram will take you from temperatures in the 80s to the top of the mountains at 8,000 feet and freezing conditions. (There's often snow on top of the mountains here in winter). Jeep excursions, hot air ballooning, hiking, biking and shopping can fill in the rest of your schedule. And there is no shortage of great restaurants and night clubs. This week, I've had the chance to sample several excellent eateries this week, including great breakfasts at the Hyatt and Marriott and dinner at the famous Wally's Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage and 6.5 acre Jackalope Ranch in Indio for dinner. As for a nightcap, check out The Nest in Indian Wells near the Hyatt. It caters to the older, middle and younger dance crowd respectively as the night turns toward dawn.

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First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”  

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Impressionist Moore creates 'hilarious' video for Euros

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 7:54 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European Ryder Cup team began its week by laughing at itself.

Noted impressionist Conor Moore made a 10-minute clip in which he took turns poking fun at the 12 team members in a press-conference setting.

The video has not, and probably will not, be made public.

“It was extremely funny, I have to say,” Ian Poulter said. “Clips like that, they can help the team get together. Although we’re taking the mickey out of one another, it’s quite a good way to start the week off.”

The best impression, apparently, was of reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari.

“I think Fran’s has made me giggle for about 10 hours now," Tommy Fleetwood said. 

"Just how deadpan he was – just trying to make how excited he was with his deadpan tone. It was perfect, really. It was absolutely spot-on."

Even the typically stoic Molinari found the video hilarious.

“I’m actually thinking of it all the time now answering questions, trying to smile a bit more,” he said, laughing.

So is this the new, more lively version of Molinari?

“Can’t you tell the difference?” he said dryly.

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Woods' final round is highest-rated FEC telecast ever

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 9:05 pm

We've heard it a million times: Tiger Woods doesn't just move the needle, he IS the needle.

Here's more proof.

NBC Sports Group's final-round coverage of Woods claiming his 80th career victory in the Tour Championship earned a 5.21 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs and the highest-rated PGA Tour telecast in 2018 (excluding majors).

The rating was up 206 percent over 2017's Tour Championship.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Coverage peaked from 5:30-6PM ET (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion. That number trailed only the 2018 peaks for the Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28). The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 PM ET) posted a 4.35 overnight rating, which is the highest-rated Tour Championship telecast on record.

Sunday’s final round also saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (up 561 percent year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports Sunday round (excluding majors) on record.

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Randall's Rant: Woods' comeback story ranks No. 1

By Randall MellSeptember 24, 2018, 8:40 pm

We’re marveling again.

This time over the essence of the man as much as the athlete, over what Tiger Woods summoned to repair, rebuild and redeem himself, after scandal and injury so ruinously rocked his career.

We watched in wonder Sunday as Woods completed the greatest comeback in the history of sport.

That’s how we’re ranking this reconstruction of a champion. (See the rankings below.)

We marveled over the admiration that flooded into the final scene of his victory at the Tour Championship, over the wave of adoring fans who enveloped him as he marched up the 18th fairway.

This celebration was different from his coronation, when he won the Masters by 12 shots in 1997, or his masterpiece, when he won the U.S. Open by 15 shots in 2000, or his epic sweep, when he won at Augusta National in ’01 to claim his fourth consecutive major championship title.

The awe back then was over how invincible Woods could seem in a sport where losing is the week-to-week norm, over how he could decimate the competition as no other player ever has.

The awe today is as much over the transformed nature of the rebuilt man.

It’s about what he has overcome since his aura of invincibility was decimated in the disgrace of a sex scandal, in the humiliation of a videotape of a DUI arrest, in the pain of four back surgeries and four knee surgeries and in the maddening affliction of chipping yips and driving and putting woes.

The wonder is also in imagining the fierce inventory of self-examination that must have been grueling, and in the mustering of inner strength required to overcome foes more formidable than Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and today’s other stars.

It’s in Woods overcoming shame, ridicule, doubt and probably some despair to rebuild his life outside the game before he could rebuild his life in the game.

Woods may never let us know the detail or depth of those inner challenges, of what helped him prevail in his more spiritual battles, because he’s still fiercely private. He may never share the keys to rebuilding his sense of himself, but he’s more open than he has ever been. He shares more than he ever has.

As a father of two children, as a mentor to so many of today’s young players, there’s more depth to the picture of this champion today. There also is more for fans to relate to in his struggles than his success. There’s more of the larger man to marvel over.

The greatest comebacks in the history of sports:

1. Tiger Woods

Four back surgeries and four knee surgeries are just part of the story. It’s why Woods ranks ahead of Ben Hogan. Woods’ comeback was complicated by so many psychological challenges, by the demon doubts created in his sex scandal and DUI arrest. There was shame and ridicule to overcome on a public stage. And then there were the chipping yips, and the driving and putting woes.

2. Ben Hogan

On Feb. 2, 1949, a Greyhound bus attempting to pass a truck slammed head on into Hogan’s Cadillac on a Texas highway. Hogan probably saved his life throwing himself over the passenger side to protect his wife, Valerie. He suffered a double fracture of the pelvis, a cracked rib, a fractured collarbone and a broken ankle, but it was a blood clot that nearly killed him a few weeks later. Hogan needed 16 months to recover but would return triumphantly to win the 1950 U.S. Open and five more majors after that.

3. Niki Lauda

In the bravest sporting comeback ever, Lauda returned to grand prix racing 38 days after his Ferrari burst into flames in a crash in a race in Germany in 1976. Disfigured from severe burns, the reigning Formula One world champion was back behind the wheel at the Italian Grand Prix, finishing fourth. He won the world championship again in ’77 and ’84.

4. Greg LeMond

In 1987, LeMond was shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident. Two years later, he won his second Tour de France title. A year after that, he won it again.

5. Babe Zaharias

In 1953, Babe Zaharias underwent surgery for colon cancer. A year later, she won the U.S. Women’s Open wearing a colostomy bag. She also went on to win the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year.

6. Monica Seles

Away from tennis for two years after being stabbed with a knife between the shoulder blades during a match in Germany, Seles won in her return to competition at the 1995 Canadian Open. She was the highest ranked women’s tennis player in the world at the time of the attack.

7. Lance Armstrong

After undergoing chemotherapy treatment in a battle with potentially fatal metastatic testicular cancer in 1996, Armstrong recovered and went on to win seven Tour de France titles. Of course, the comeback wasn’t viewed in the same light after he was stripped of all those titles after being implicated in a doping conspiracy.

8. Mario Lemieux

In the middle of the 1992-93 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins star underwent radiation treatment for Hodgkin disease and missed 20 games. Making a start the same day as his last treatment, Lemieux scored a goal and assist. The Penguins would go on a 17-game winning streak after his return and Lemieux would lead the league in scoring and win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

9. Peyton Manning

Multiple neck surgeries and a spinal fusion kept Manning from playing with the Indianapolis Colts for the entire 2011 season. He was released before the 2012 season and signed with the Denver Broncos. He won his fifth NFL MVP Award in ’13 and helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl in the ’15 season.

10. Bethany Hamilton

A competitive surfer at 13, Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack in Hawaii. A month later, she was surfing again. Less than two years later, she was a national champion.