Not a bad winter all in all – until this recent heavy rain & melt off that cause a few serious problems…at
some local courses that is. But regardless of these issues, the time for spring golf is upon us! And that’s
always great news.
The golf shops are being stocked with all the new offerings from the major manufacturers, the days are getting longer – especially by the middle of this month – spring rates, season passes, early bird memberships & range pass packages are all at their best pricing; (and) all your golfing friends are coming out of hibernation!
As usual, I have a virtual “laundry list” of recommendations for aiding in making this your best season – but I’m going to push most of that back to next month…with one major exception…Are you planning an outing this year? Do it ASAP. The best dates get locked up quickly – so give your favorite course a call today if possible.
And, of course, we at Golf Plus, again, are excitedly looking forward to bringing you all the region news & notes, as well as, my efforts to include new, expanded contests and giveaways (and) further feature articles on the facilities & individuals who make up our local game. Welcome to golf – (version 2018) – good to see you again!
I hope you had a chance to follow the world’s golf tours over the winter. They were overflowing with great golf -and- if what we’ve seen so far continues, (2018) promises to be a terrific year for all us golf fans.
The LPGA Tour – opened on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic title was won by Brittany Lincicome for the 2nd year in a row – and then moved to Adelaide, Australia for the Women’s Australian Open, which was won by a young (22 yr old) South Korean star, in the making, by the name of Jin Young Ko, who was making her 1st start as an LPGA member – (and) this (always traveling) group moved on to Chonburi, Thailand, where Jessica Korda, who is just coming back from serious injuries, won the Honda LPGA Thailand event for her 5th career victory.
The Men’s European Tour – was quite busy since our last edition – with: The 59th Hong Kong Open – where veteran Australian tourist Wade Ormsby won his 1st ever Euro title; the (102nd) Australian Open title went to (22) year old Cameron Davis in his native land – also his 1st ever victory on tour; the next week in Queensland, the Australian PGA Championship gave another (24) year old rising Australian star, by the name of Cameron Smith, his first Euro trophy – the Aussies are coming! And they are good! The Joburg Open – played in Johannesburg, South Africa, saw another! 1st time winner on the European Tour – but this time, it was Shubhankar Sharma of India; in Jakarta, Indonesia, Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose shoots a record (29) under par at the Indonesian Masters for his 21st professional title – giving him wins in (11) different countries! Back in South Africa – England’s Chris Paisley – (yet another 1st time winner) – takes home the (107th edition) of the BMW South African Open victory. The 3rd edition of the “Eurasia Cup” – a biennial Ryder Cup-style competition with teams from Europe and Asia facing off – this time in Shah Alam, Malaysia – the Euro’s retain the cup with a 14-10 victory. At Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, England’s Tommy Fleetwood defended his title – while Rory McIlroy finishes tied for third in his 1st start since facing injury/health issues over the last several months; the 52nd Singapore Open title went to Spain’s Sergio Garcia – for his 33rd career worldwide victory; (22) yr. old Chinese golf sensation, Haotong Li, won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic; (21) yr old Shubhankar Sharma proved he’s for real with another victory at the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; the “unique” World Super (6) Perth event – where the players tackle (54) holes of stroke play – and then (24) players advance into a match-play format – it was won by Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand - *This event also has all the players wired for live sound – it was very interesting – but keep it off the U.S. Tour – who knows what we might hear! The talented Joost Luiten of the Netherlands, brought home his 6th career title with his victory at the Oman Open, and English veteran Eddie Pepperell won for the 1st time in his (15+) year long career at the Qatar Masters…as I stated…The European Tour has been quite busy since our last edition! (And) there is a reason I mentioned all these events in this writing – I will explain why in a future article on the impact/importance of all these foreign events on our game here at home – but for now, let’s move on…
The PGA Tour Champions – or – The Champions Tour, as I still prefer to call it – took some time off – returning in late January at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where (2017) rookie of the year, Jerry Kelly, took home the crown; and in February, (2) events were held – with Mark Calcavecchia getting his 4th senior circuit victory at the Boca Raton Championship in Boca Raton, Florida; and in Naples, Florida, the following week, Joe Durant won his 3rd Champions title at the Chubb Classic.
The Men’s PGA Tour – never really stopped playing – but instead refers to late (2017) and most of (2018) as its wrap-around season – so there is a lot to cover since we last went to print – beginning with: the RSM Classic in beautiful St. Simmons Island, Georgia, where (26) year old Austin Cook bested the field for his 1st victory; the 29th QBE Shootout hosted by Greg Norman in Naples, Florida – a fun event with (2) man teams – was won by veterans Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair; another cool event – the PNC Father/Son Challenge in Orlando, was won by the team of Angel & Angel Jr. Cabrera; and the 66th edition of the Sentry Tournament of Champions was held in Kapulua, Hawaii – featuring the winners (including (14) 1st time winners) on the PGA Tour last season – and no surprise here – world #1 Dustin Johnson got his season off to a great start with his 17th career victory. *That makes at least one victory per season for Dustin every year for the last (11) years in a row – and which featured an incredible 430 yard drive to within (6) inches on the 430 yard (obviously) par (4) – 12th hole on Sunday! Oh my!! The 53rd Sony Open was played in Honolulu the following week with Patton Kizzire – who also won in October – getting his 2nd victory of the wrap-around season in a (6) hole playoff; back to the mainland – the tour players competed next at La Quinta, California in the Career Builders Classic, where Spain’s (23 year old) phenom Jon Rahm wins – and now moves to #2 in the world; the Farmer’s Insurance Open in San Diego followed that with former #1 Jason Day winning in a (6) hole playoff of his own over Sweden’s Alex Noren – great tournament. Hope you saw it! And the next week’s Phoenix Open, held in Scottsdale, Arizona, saw the powerful Gary Woodland get his 3rd career victory – with another victory going to the size of the crowds for the week – which was recorded at a whopping 720,000! folks for (7) days of the event. Yes, I said 720,000! Oh my, again! Ted Potter Jr. – a great story of perseverance – (you should look up his story when you get a chance) – won the 77th edition of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – held on (3) courses on the Monterey Peninsula – for his 1st victory in over (6) years; the Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, California was home for the Genesis Open the following week – and saw an emotional, hard fought victory for Bubba Watson – who has won this event (3) times now & also notched his 10th victory on the PGA Tour…only the 2nd lefty to ever win in double digits on the tour…the other? Phil has (42)! Closing out February was another exciting event at the 46th Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – another playoff – and another victory – (8 in total in his career now) for (24) yr old Justin Thomas, who jumps past his friend (also 24) Jordan Spieth – into the #3 ranked position in the world.
Now that’s a lot of tour stuff! Did I miss anything? …oh yeah!... I didn’t address the elephant – (or in this case “the Tiger”) – in the room! The return – maybe? The healthy return to the tour of Mr. Tiger Woods.
I purposely left this out in the tour notes because it’s almost a set of tour notes of its own. Tiger returned in late November of last year to compete in the tournament he hosts – the “Hero World Challenge” in the Bahamas – a very limited field – (this year there were (18) players) – with some of the best players in the world who come out to enjoy the Bahamas (and) raise money for one of Tiger’s Foundations – (Anyway), he played – and he played well. At the (27th) hole mark of this event, he was actually leading – big deal? Well yeah, sort of, but these were (18) of the best players in the world – after all he has gone through, the only point he should have had any part of a lead should have been when he was tied at even par before anyone teed off! Anyway, again, he finished 9th for the week with Rickie Fowler firing a cool (61) in the final round for the victory, but (sorry Rickie) the story was Tiger.
Tiger – (as I always say – love him or not) – is as important to golf in the last 20+ years as anyone, any product, or any event – he just is/was – however you want to state it. And the other players know it. I read somewhere where when Tiger began his career, (10) golfers had made (7) million or more in career earnings – and today? Approximately (220!) players have exceeded that – that’s not due to inflation – that’s due in large part to “Tigerflation.”
How well will he play? Who knows – his next swing could be his last…at (42) now, and having had the most recent of his four back surgeries just last April, not to mention his knee surgeries and personal problems – it’s amazing if he ever even makes the cut at any event – his absence from competitive golf has plummeted his world ranking – (once he was #1 in the world for almost (10) years!) to a staggering, (now beginning his comeback), and lowly 1,199th in the world – and quite honestly, maybe he could be excused from being ranked that high.
At every event he plays, he will be “the story” – (and) guess what? He has played (3) more events now – and with the exception of his wayward drives – has hung in there & indeed has probably exceeded almost everyone’s expectations.
His first full field event – the Farmers Insurance Open – played at Torrey Pines GC, where he has won (8!) times – including a victory in the US Open held there – where it was later found that he played at least part of the event with a fractured leg! – Anyway, this year he made the cut & finished tied for 23rd! I gotta tell ya. I never would have believed it – these players that he is competing against are good (&) this game is hard – my hat’s off to him.
He played next at the Genesis Open – shot a bulky (76) on Friday & missed the cut – still (71 & 76) at Riviera is not what I consider terrible golf.
And most recently he played the difficult PGA National Golf Course for (4) rounds at the Honda Classic and finished (12th) – he finished even par on this course – where (8) under won & only (11) of the best tour players in the world were able to break par for the week. That’s impressive!
Me – I’ll always be a Nicklaus fan – who’s the best that ever played – well, I just stated my opinion. But for being the entire “package” – drawing crowds & raising the purses like Arnold Palmer – including others into the game like Lee Trevino & Charlie Sifford and others – being able to win big like Jack – what can you say? – this man is truly the elephant in the room.
My Masters pick: Sometimes I wish I hadn’t made this an annual tradition (I’ve only been right once in the years I’ve written for the paper) – but tradition it is. And this year, more than ever, I truly believe any one of 30 or 40 players could win – this era of talented players who fear nothing and go for it on almost every shot, has really changed the game – but I need to pick one – and my pick is England’s Paul Casey. Who? – He can play – and he can play Augusta well, and I really think this year, a lot of the big hitters in the game are going to feel the sting of Augusta, if they spray the ball of the tee at all. *But if you are picking for a pool – pick somebody – probably anybody! else – my record has not been that good!
Special thanks this month: To Mike & Kathy Modrzejewski – you know I couldn’t do any of this without you! To my daughter Stacey for just being a good person & understanding golf is truly her home. To all who follow this column & give me such wonderful feedback. And to all the others – who know who they are – that continue to make life so rewarding.
(And) if you have a suggestion for a feature article you would like to see covered -or- if you just want to chime in – please contact me at our e-mail address: email@example.com or leave me a voicemail at (219)617-3276, and to read past golf course reviews – or to just visit Golf Plus newspaper online – visit our website at GolfPlusOnline.net.
Lastly: Here’s hoping for some good weather this month – and talking about the weather – I’d like to (try) and relate a story I heard recently…it seems that a group of guys from the far north (after an especially rough winter) were going to leave in early February to play a little Florida golf – and seeing each other just before the trip, one fella says, “I’m flying down tomorrow (Saturday), when are you guys heading out?” To Which one of the others replied, “We’re leaving tomorrow too, but we’re driving down – we decided were going to stop off in Punxsutawney and give that groundhog, or whatever it is, a little “encouragement” after this terrible winter, so we’ll see you on Sunday.” Well, the guy that flies down, gets to Florida, and sure enough, on Sunday, he heads to the tee to see the others shoeing up – so he asks, “How was the trip? Did you help out that old groundhog + get us an early spring?” All he heard was grumblin’ & expletives from the others – until one guy spoke up and said, “I’ve got good news and bad news.” To which he replied, “What’s the bad news?” – “That (more expletives) gopher came out, it was snowing like the devil…but still…(6) more weeks of winter.” – So he asked, “What’s the good news?” And another replied, “That darn critter sure was delicious!”
See ya next month - Pete