Scottsdale golf in December: Bargains, sunshine abound before the peak season storm

By Brandon TuckerDecember 17, 2012, 3:59 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As my trip last week confirmed, mid-December is a fabulous time for golf in Scottsdale if you can find room on your travel calendar between holiday family trips during. Despite temperatures and course conditions that are nearly perfect, green fees are a bargain; many are 30-50 percent off their spring peak-season rates.

My aim for the week was great under-the-radar courses that fly below Scottsdale's top shelf (like Troon North, TPC Scottsdale, Boulders and Grayhawk). The undisputed champ among my course rotation for the week was the Raven Golf Club - Phoenix (pictured above). The Raven is a facility that delivers an elite round of golf without commanding two or three benjis for the privilege (midweek prime time slots in December can be had for $75-99). The Raven's location just south of Sky Harbor International Airport means the property doesn't boast the million-year-old boulder piles like Troon North and Boulders Resort. Instead, the course's beauty is man-made. More than 6,000 Georgia Pines were imported. Designers Gary Panks and David Graham sculpted rolling mounds and giant bunkers to create a grassy, free-swinging layout more akin to the Carolina Sandhills.

Despite much fanfare when it originally opened, the Raven lacked its 'A-game' in recent years. But OB Sports assumed management in 2010 and performed some major housekeeping. The Raven should reap the rewards this spring, when happy golfers begin to spread the word.

Another facility that demands a second look is the McDowell Mountain Golf Club (formerly Sanctuary Golf Club). Phil Mickelson led an ownership group that took over the Sanctuary in 2010. Mickelson's team, along with architect Randy Heckenkemper, revamped the facility to suit both tourist swings and low-handicappers. Playing corridors were widened and some bunkers were filled in, though the back tee yardage was extended to more than 7,000 yards and the practice facility was enhanced to attract range grinders. The project will be complete when the new 11,000-square-foot clubhouse opens in January, just in time for prime time.

McDowell Mountain

McDowell Mountain has been cleaned up and widened under Lefty's eye. 

Minutes from Scottsdale, another facility delivers a legendary name without a premium green fee is the Pete Dye-designed ASU Karsten Golf Course ($59-69 in December). Though unquestionably a Dye signature thanks to its railroad ties, plenty of greenside water hazards and enormous grassy mounds bordering fairways, it's one of Dye's more playable courses from the 6,200-yard set of tees -- for those of us who never had a chance of landing a Sun Devils golf scholarship.

Golf in the West Valley: Wigwam Gold and Raven at Verrado

Wigwam Gold

Classic golf awaits in the West Valley at Wigwam Resort's Gold Course.

Those who make the 30-minute drive from Scottsdale to the West Valley can find not only good bargains but also some sleeper layouts worth the gas money.

At the historic Wigwam Resort, the Gold Course blends classic bones with modern stoutness. The course plays 7,430 yards from the back tees, long enough to host the Patriot All-America, a top collegiate event. The parkland design by Robert Trent Jones Sr. features raised and intricate greens and directional fairway bunkers, making it one this area's finest plays for lower-handicap players. For the rest of us, the 6,348-yard gold set provides for a most pleasant and unique round. You also won't be fishing around desert or tip-toeing around 'jumping Cholla' for errant drives; this course is wall-to-wall grass and a mix of mature, native and imported trees that frame each hole (December green fees: $55-69).

Toward the westernmost edge of the Valley is the Raven Golf Club at Verrado, another desert play luring golfers away from the epicenter with great rates and a championship layout (December green fees: $69-99). One of the Valley's newest courses and part of a budding residential development (yes, locals throughout the desert admit the market has picked up quite nicely in the past few months), Verrado's back nine winds up and down foothills to deliver great variety with scenic downhill holes and tough uphill ones. The higher tee boxes showcase wide fairways you can swing away at, plus a unique view of the distant Phoenix skyline miles to the east.

Stay and play in Scottsdale

Valley Ho

Hotel Valley Ho in downtown Scottsdale

If your group wants to make downtown Scottsdale your base for the week and wants some stylish digs, check into the Hotel Valley Ho, a mid-century modern refab with updated guest rooms and niceties like an espresso maker, HD TV and a large bathroom. Or, for golf and gaming, the new Talking Stick Resort is sleek and has the best casino floor in the Valley, not to mention 36 holes of all-natural Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw golf, plus a massive practice facility onsite. 

The scene in downtown Scottsdale is a mix of chic joints and dives. You can get a great cut of steak or prime rib in a friendly, sporty environment at Donn & Charlie's. Or go for something a little more slick like Mission, serving Latin American dishes in a stylish environment. For casual beers and sausage, try the new Brat Haus, serving all sorts of varieties of both beers and meats from pork to turkey and rabbit.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”

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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”