Friday, July 31, 2009
He nearly dropped a shot on No. 9 when he hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker. But he hit out to about 40 yards from the hole and had a nice up and down.
He said he thinks that should help some for the weekend.
"I played solid," Senden said. "I didn't have any bogeys, and getting a little awkward lie on the 9th hole and having to chip out pretty much and then nice up-and-down was a good momentum boost for scoring going into tomorrow.
"And every shot's important, so I need to feel like I can treat the weekend - try to feel the same as I did the last two days by staying focused on what I need to do."
But just remember: Tiger is on the prowl.
"With Tiger going out and shooting low, I think that shows his class, being the best player in the world," Senden said. "I think that him starting out on fire is fantastic for the game this week, the golf tournament, and you know, he's basically the best player in the world. It was great to see that he was doing what he was doing."
So I'm in the interview room at the Buick Open, watching Tiger Woods, chatting, smiling and just appearing in a lot better mood than he was after Thursday's miserable first-round performance.
Today, he shot a very nice 9-under to go 10-under for the tournament. And at this moment, he's in a tie for third, just three strokes back.
During the question-and-answer session of the post-round interview, a reporter asked Tiger about two putts that he barely missed. One was on No. 1 for an eagle, and the other was on No. 3, which would have been for birdie.
Tiger dismissed the putt at No. 3, saying that he missed his mark on No. 3 and that "it really probably shouldn't have gone in."
But the eagle attempt on the first hole?
"1 was a good putt," he said with his head tilted and that Tiger smile, like, "Yeah, it should have gone in."
Of course, had he not shot 9-under today, perhaps he wouldn't have been smiling so much.
John Senden still is in the lead at 13-under with four holes to play.
John Senden moved into a second place tie with Vaughn Taylor at the Buick Open after finishing his nine holes at 3 under. Senden and Taylor are both at 11-under for the tournament, one shot behind leader Michael Letzig.
Both Letzig and Taylor are in the clubhouse, and Senden still has the back nine to play.
There's still a four-way tie for third, including Steve Lowery, Tiger Woods, Kevin Stadler and Roland Thatcher. Woods was on fire today, shooting a 9-under for the day.
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
One stroke ahead is Vaughn Taylor, and Michael Letzig still has the lead at 12 under.
For Tiger Woods, he didn't deviate from his game plan after turning in what he called one of his worst putting days ever.
"Same routine," Woods said after scoring a 9-under 63 to pull within two of the lead. "I didn't change a thing."
Plus, he was mad.
"I was a little bit hot yesterday," he said with a smile.
He was in danger of missing his second straight cut, but a slew of birdies and an eagle has Woods back on the prowl for a Buick Open title. But like Michael Letzig - the leader right now at 12 under - Woods knows that he can't get it all back at once.
"You have to look at it like a process," the No. 1 player in the world said. "I was so far back yesterday.
"I'll just try to put a dent in that every day. But at least I'm back in the tournament."
Woods is a little happier today - except for his 3-putt on No. 18 - and the galleries are a little happier, as well, I think.
"It's nice to have everyone excited," Woods said. "I played well, and people started getting excited about it."
If he shoots another 63 tomorrow, the excitement will grow significantly.
But he's well aware that there's plenty more golf to be played.
"Steve Lowery could go out and shoot 9 under again, and I'd be way behind," Letzig said.
Lowery, who tees off in about 10 minutes, was the first-round leader at 9 under.
K.J. Choi is 2 under for the day and 4 under for the tournament. Not bad, but he's going to have to get some birdies if he wants to make a run at the title. He has two birdies on the day, along with a bogey and a slew of pars with three holes to play.
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
Michael Letzig carded eight birds and a bogey en route to a second-round lead at the Buick Open. Letzig has one Top 10 finish this year, when he tied for eighth at last week's RBC Canadian Open.
With one hole to play, he's 12 under for the tournament, one stroke ahead of Vaughn Taylor.
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
He wasn't really in contention at the start of the day, finishing 4 over after the first round. And he started today fairly well, with birdies on 10 and 13.
But then he bogeyed 15, doubled 18 and scored a 10 on No. 1 with two shots out of bounds and two more in high rough. he followed that up with another bogey on No. 4 to put him at 12 over for the tournament.
The cut is expected to be at minus-3.
So far after the first 10 holes he's played, Tiger Woods has an eagle, six birdies, two pars and a bogie to move within four shots of the lead. Vaughn Taylor, who is 12 under for the tourney, also is playing well today, shooting 5 under through 14 holes.
Tiger's lone bogie so far came on 18 when he left his approach shot short of the pin, screamed his long putt way past the hole and missed the comeback putt. You could tell when he tapped in for bogie that he was upset - the ball nearly bounced out of the hole because he hit it a little hard.
John Daly is playing one group behind Woods, and Daly's approach shot sailed over the green and into the grandstands. After searching for it briefly, Daly started heading back down the fairway to hit again and take a penalty. But they finally found his ball, and he dropped on the right side of the green.
Daly, wearing something a little conservative for him today, chipped on and stopped his ball about five feet from the hole. All he had to do is putt it in for par - a miracle considering almost losing his ball.
But his first putt was terrible and rolled past the hole. Then his comebacker did a 360 around the edge. He then tapped in for a double.
And he followed that poor performance with a horrendous 10 on No. 1. He went out of bounds twice on the left, and bad shot after bad shot put him in the rough and the trees as he made his way down the fairway. Daly is in last place, and he will miss the cut.
Tiger Woods started on No. 10, and so far after his first five holes, he has a birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie run to put himself into the Top 5. For the tournament, Woods is two strokes behind the leaders, Steve Lowery and Vaughn Taylor, who are both at 9 under.
Woods apparently following up his worst putting day ever with one of his better ones.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
For those of you who are about to give up on Tiger, please don't.
Yes, he's tied for 96th after the first round of the Buick Open, eight strokes off leader Steve Lowery.
"Guys are only going to continue to go low. That's the way this golf course is playing right now this week. It's going to be 20-plus probably to win the tournament," Tiger said after shooting a 1 under par 71.
Yes, he missed several putts that he normally makes.
"Probably one of the worst putting days I've ever had," Tiger said. "Just didn't hit any."
And no, he's not playing like Tiger.
"I was playing good yesterday (in the Pro-Am), playing good today starting out, when I was warming up, got on the greens today, and it was just terrible," he said.
But this is Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world. And what's good about that - besides the obvious - is that he's a well-liked winner. The crowds grow significantly when he's in the field. He's not like teams you love to hate because they win so much or used to win so much, ie Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers.
"Anytime you get Tiger to your tournament, you should thank Tiger for coming," said Tom Pernice, who finished tied for 13th at 5 under. "It looks like Tiger stepped up to the plate, did what he needed to do to really help out Buick and the community here.
"So I thought it was a great thing, and it adds excitement anytime Tiger is in the field."
Right now, it's anyone's tournament - including Tiger's. He's got three more days to make up eight strokes.
"I'm going to have to take advantage of the holes you're supposed to take advantage of, par 5s, couple of short par 4s," Tiger said. "I'll handle those and sprinkle a few more here or there, and I'll come up with the number I need to come up with."
He's never lacked confidence.
And as far as my new favorite player, K.J. Choi, he's at 2 under, tied for 70th. Now I can't go into all the quotes and reasons why Choi still is in it. But I can root for him.
Photos courtesy of PGA and PGA Tour
Corey Pavin just finished his 6 under 66, highlighted by a string of birdies on the back nine. And after he talked about his first round at the Buick Open, the conversation turned to the Ryder Cup.
Pavin, captain of the next U.S. Ryder Cup team, is preparing for the 2010 matches, which are set for Oct. 1-3 at Celtic Manor Golf Club in Newport, Wales. When one reporter in the interview room asked him if he was enjoying the preparation, it was pretty obvious that "enjoying" the experience probably wasn't the right word to use.
He called it his job. He said he just wanted to do things that reflected positively on his team. And he said it wasn't something he usually did.
And when asked what he was focusing on in the near future, he talked about gifts for the players, hotel room measurements in Wales and room decorations. Pavin said he wanted to complete those logistical questions this year, so he could focus on his team next year.
I have mixed feelings. I was excited when Paul Azinger, winning Ryder Cup captain in 2008, led his team to victory over the Europeans. On the final day of the tournament, I was on my way to play golf at the Homestead in Virginia. I pulled over at a roadside motel to watch the final showdown that had the rookies tally a 4-1-1 record on Sunday. Azinger was excited, too.
But here, Pavin was reserved and almost nonchalant about the next Ryder Cup. OK, maybe he's concentrating on the Buick Open. I mean, he is in contention - just three behind the leader. Or maybe he's just playing things close to the vest.
I hope that's the case because I want another exciting victory for the U.S.
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
The party hole deserves its name.
No. 17 at Warwick Hills is well-known as having one of the rowdiest crowds on the PGA Tour. With a tent halfway down the 197-yard fairway that has a beer tent right behind it, No. 17 crowds should be pretty animated.
Most of the time, the tent crowd won't even stop talking - and talking loudly - when golfers are on the teebox or the green. But when one of Michigan's own sticks a tee shot about a foot from the pin, they will stop the partying briefly to watch Andrew Ruthkoski of Muskegon, Mich., tap in for a birdie.
Ruthkoski earned a spot in the Buick Open field by placing second in a Monday qualifier at Fieldstone Golf Club in Auburn Hills.
Ruthkoski's two on No. 17 was his fourth birdie in his first eight holes, and he headed for 18 at 3 under. (He bogied No. 10, the hole his group started out on this afternoon.)
But a double bogey on No. 18 and a triple bogey on No. 1 turned his 3 under into a 2 over.
Maybe he needed that party crowd atmosphere to follow him around the turn.
Oh, and for the Tiger and K.J. watch. Tiger is 1 under through 16, Choi is 3 under through 17.
Steve Lowery is in the clubhouse at 9 under, taking the lead at the Buick Open. And like Tom Pernice, he talked about how great it is to play at Warwick Hills.
"They've kept the four par 5s and the driveable par 4," said Lowery, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach tournament in 2008. "I'm not a fan of the 470-500-yard par 4s.
"This type of course - it makes it more exciting to watch, more exciting to play. I think it's better."
He also said he thinks a little more rambunctiousness from the fans would be a good thing.
"Obviously, it could get out of hand," Lowery said. "But golf needs more of that."
He said the par 3 No. 17, already known for its rowdy crowds, is an exciting hole to play.
I remember my tee shot on the 17 in the Pro-Am. I sliced it to the right, and I was sure that i saw my ball go into a group of fans on the right side of the green. But all of sudden, it magically appeared inside the ropes, just short of the green.
When I walked up to my ball, I asked the group if they threw my ball back, ala throwing a home run ball back onto the field.
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
I guess you could call Tom Pernice Jr. a golf purist.
Pernice is tied for the clubhouse lead at 5 under. Two players still on the course are at 7 under and 8 under. In the interview room, Pernice talked about his first win on the PGA Tour - the 1999 Buick Open - and his affinity for the course here at Warwick Hills.
"A lot of players lover coming here because it's a traditional, old-style golf course," said Pernice, who's been a pro since 1983. It's my special place. It was my first win."
Although Warwick Hills was ranked at the easiest course on the PGA Tour last year, Pernice said that you still have to excute.
"These old style golf course - to me, that's what golf's all about," Pernice said. "I've got into troucle in the past for criticizing Rees Jones' redos. But it can't be a great course if it's too difficult.
"It's still a game for enjoyment. After a tournament, the other 51 weeks of the year, the average player has to go out and play it."
He said he likes Warwick Hills, likening the style to Pebble Beach, Riviera and Brown Deer Park in Milwaukee.
"Anytime you play an old traditional style golf course, you have a chance to score well," he said. "You don't have to have power here.
"To me, that's the way golf was meant to be played."
Photo courtesy of PGA Tour
The good: Woody Austin hit a low, flyer under branches of two trees, while staying away from a greenside bunker and getting close enough to the green to salvage the hole on No. 10.
The bad: Brian Bateman hit his tee shot on No. 18 into the middle of the 9th fairway. It reminded me of Nate in the Pro-Am. Just kidding.
And the lucky: Y.E. Yang apparently left his club face open when he hit his tee shot on No. 1. It screamed down the right side of the fairway, heading toward the trees. But a fortuitous bounce off a bunker hill put it back into the fairway.
Of course, what sets the pros apart from the rest of us is what they do after a bad shot. Every single golfer - whether it's Tiger Woods or Jeff Gluck - will hit a bad shot. But a pro has enough talent to save himself from a bad situation.
Case in point: After Bateman found himself in the wrong fairway after teeing off on No. 18, about 200 yards from the hole, he calmly hit his next shot over the trees and landed it about 15 or 20 feet from the pin. It might take me three more shots to get to that point.
Oh, and he made a par 4 on the hole.
But I think I'll focus on Webb Simpson, a fellow North Carolina guy. He turned pro last year after a successful Nationwide Tour season. And he's playing well of late. After missing the cut in five out of six tournaments in May and June, he's finished below par in three out of the last four tournaments, in which he's played. At the Canadian Open, Simpson tied for 16th at 11-under par.
Simpson, who is paired with Charles Warren and Ricky Barnes, tees off at 1:03 p.m.
Jay Williamson and Tom Pernice Jr. ae the early leaders at 4-under.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Or maybe I should start with how nervous I was on the first teebox - hole No. 10. K.J. Choi, the pro we're playing with, received a nice round of applause when they announced his name to the crowd. But when I approached the teebox and my name was announced - silence. I, of course, turned around to the crowd and said, "What? No one's going to clap for me?" My teammates - Vanessa Bishop Diggs, Tyrone Fletcher and Nate Pilon - plus our caddies erupted into a dull roar for me. So, what did I do? Stuck one down the middle of the fairway. Here's where I have to brag a little. Choi and I were the only ones to hit the fairway on our opening tee shots. And he said, "Good shot," after I teed off.
Or maybe I should start with my birdie on the 500-yard par 5 13th. Yes, it was a net birdie, meaning my handicap scoring played a role in that. But I missed a net eagle putt by about six inches.
There were plenty of accolades to go around. We finished 13 under for the day, which still wasn't good enough for a first-place trophy. That went to a team at 17 under. But everyone on our team contributed, and we finished in the top 10. Tyrone played well today, carding several birdies. But the fan favorite was Vanessa. She eagled (net) No. 16, a long par 5, and she stuck her tee shot a few feet from the pin on No. 17, the famous watery par 3 that often draws the biggest galleries at the Buick Open. She received more applause for those two shots than I think Tiger Woods did when he played through. Maybe. I do know that our team beat his team, which finished at 11 under on the day.
Or maybe I should start with the autographs that I signed today. But it wasn't about my golfing. It was about UNC. Naturally, I'm decked out in Tar Heels gear, and a couple of young kids see my hat and start yelling, "Go Heels." They apparently followed my group to the next hole, and as we're heading to the next teebox, they call me over to the ropes. "I gotta get a UNC autograph. I just gotta." I signed three autographs there, including one on a doll that the man said was for his daughter. Strange. Then, one woman asked me to sign her pairings sheet.
Like I said, I don't know where to start. But I think I'll finish up this little excerpt with an attaboy for my caddy, Chris. I didn't get his last name, but he said he's vying for Caddy of the Year at Warwick Hills. And I can see why. He helped me line up putts, always had my club ready for me, cleaned my golf balls and always had a positive attitude no matter where my ball went. And it went some crazy places several times. Chris even manned the still camera and the video camera during the round. A couple of people asked me if he was my son. But whoever his father is, he should be proud because Chris is a good kid.
Well, those are some of the highlights of one of the Top 10 experiences I've had. There'll be more later, and I'll add pictures in a few days. I tried downloading them to my laptop, but I'm having difficulties. I'll try again when I get home on my desktop.
In the meantime, look out for the next installment from the Buick Open. Tomorrow, I'll be spending the day in the media tent and following some of the players around. I have media credentials, so i should be able to get up close and personal.
So let's recap:
Best celebrity moment: Hitting balls next to Bob Seger.
Worst celebrity moment: Seeing Shane Battier walk past me on the driving range.
Best golf shot: Tee shot on No. 10 (the first shot of the day)
Worst golf shot: Hitting over a bunker, standing with the crowd a few feet away, hearing a man say, "There is no bunker." And then dropping it into the bunker.
Best K.J. Choi moment: Getting a hug from him after draining a long par putt.
Worst K.J. Choi moment: ?
Best caddy moment: Getting lucky and drawing Chris.
Worst caddy moment: When Vanessa's caddy dropped her bag three times before we teed off and broke it.
Funniest moment: When Nate hit into the wrong fairway twice, and both times, he hit into Stuart Appleby's fairway. Appleby asked him, "Haven't you already played this fairway?"
Strangest moment: Signing autographs
Best part of the day: Walking the course like the pros and hearing the galleries moan when we miss that 10-foot double-bogie putt and yell and clap when we make that 15-foot bogie putt.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
I just received word that the Pure Michigan team that I'll be playing on has drafted K.J. Choi as its playing pro. Choi, who is No. 90 in the FedEx Cup points race, tied for third at the Northern Trust Open in February, his best finish of the year.
Choi's best season so far has been 2007, when he finished in the Top 5 in the FedEx Cup race and won both the Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National.
We tee off at 9 a.m. Wednesday on Hole No. 10 at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich.
Photo courtesy of N.Y. Times
Also, I guess everyone has heard the bad news. This will be the last Buick Open. GM has pulled its sponsorship after this week's tournament.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Pairings will be announced Monday.
Here is a story from the Detroit Free Press about the tournament:
As soon as the pairings are announced and I have more information, I'll let you know.
Wish me luck.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I saw this story from a few months ago about Hal Sutton on the Palm Beach Post Web site, and it reminded me of what he said during a telephone press conference last year as he prepared to tee off in the Administaff Small Business Classic.
It was his first completed golf tournament in about four years, and he finished tied for 23rd. Not bad.
The night before the tournament, he said it was going to be a slow process, taking it one step at a time.
"I tee off at noon tomorrow," Sutton said. "Right now my mindset's trying to hit the fairway. We'll move on to the next shot after that."
So, after "sticking his toe in the water" on the 2008 Champions Tour, Sutton is wading through a pretty full schedule of events this year.
Last week, he finished tied for 51st at the 3M Championship after a poor second round. But he's done well overall this year, finishing tied for third in April at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The SAS Championship, a Champions Tour event, is looking for about 600 volunteers for the September golf tournament in Raleigh.
I'm not sure who will be playing this year as the field hasn't been set yet, but Eduardo Romero, defending SAS Championship champion is expected to play. But last year, Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite were just a few of the players who competed.
So, this is a chance to rub elbows with some of the legends of golf. There are a number of different volunteer groups that have unique responsibilities, including: Golf Channel support, walking scorers, standard bearers and hole marshals. Training will be provided..
The volunteer fee is $50 and includes an Antigua golf shirt and headwear, Volunteer Badge valid for week-long tournament access, two Weekly Grounds Badges for guests of the volunteer’s choice, two invitations to the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party and meals and beverages during assigned shifts. All volunteers that work three or more shifts will receive a free golf voucher for one round at Prestonwood Country Club.
For more information, go to http://www.saschampionship.com/
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It's been a couple of weeks since my return from Europe, and I finally have turned the corner on getting over this cold. Looking back, I can see what happened. During one 24-hour stretch in Europe, I played three rounds of golf, flew from France to England, took two one-hour train rides and got about three hours of sleep. No wonder I got sick.
But I'm good now, and with the British Open at Turnberry just a couple of days away, I thought I'd give you guys my impression of golf courses in England and France.
Granted, I played only five courses, but I think I got a general overview of what Europe has to offer. I mean, I didn't play St. Andrews, Muirfield or Royal Birkdale, but Hindhead and Old Thorns are some pretty good courses - particularly the impressive Hindhead Golf Club in Surrey. It's more of a heathland style course, but there are plenty of trees and elevation changes.
When I first started playing, I hated par 3 holes. For some reason, I had a mental block. But now, I relish stepping up to a par 3 hole, staring down the fairway to an open green anywhere from 100-200 yards away. I bring this up because Hindhead has at least two of the best par 3s I've played. Both are pretty straightforward, but the scenery and the layout make for some nice changes to the rest of the course.
I'd be a little remiss if I didn't mention the Northwick Park course just outside of London. It's a tribute course, with cool little features like a bunker in the middle of the green (ala Riviera No. 6) and deep and steep-sided bunkers that surround a postage stamp green (ala Royal Troon No. 8).
As far as the two courses I played in France, one - Carcassonne Country Club - was a wide open parkland course with few trees. I liked it better than the Seihl Golf Course in Toulouse, which is more a resort course. Carcassonne had a little more character, with more elevation changes, including a couple of par 3s that drop significantly from tee box to green. I birdied the closing hole, a 144-meter par 3 that starts with a tee box surrounded by trees and ends with a wide open green at the bottom of a hill. If you look closely at the picture, you can see my ball about 18 inches from the hole. I do like par 3s.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Now that I'm back, I should be able to get back into a regular routine here. I have a couple of golf video tips from Bryan Bush that should be up this week.
Plus, I'll give you guys a sneak peak at the courses I played in Europe.
Happy 4th of July, Happy Birthday to me on Monday.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
After a late-night flight from France got me back to London, I still had a 30-minute train ride, long wait in customs and a crazy search for change for a bus. I finally ditched the search for change and decided a 20 pound taxi ride was worth it, considering it was 2 a.m., and I had to get up at 4:45 a.m. so I could catch the tube and then train to Haslemere.
That's was the first stop on a two-course day that featured Old Thorns Golf Club and Hindhead Golf Club. Two very nice courses. I hit the ball well, but I didn't keep score on either course. I did have one birdie for the day.
By the afternoon, I was exhausted, basically because Hindhead is a walking-only course. No golf carts - or buggies as they're called over here. Walking an 18-hole course in 90-degree heat after one morning round and zero sleep is grueling.
One more night in London, and then I'm home. I'll write more about the course specifics later. But suffice to say, they're really good courses, and both are undergoing facilities renovations and expansions that should make a visit to either one - or both - enjoyable.