Blog Number 33 - 7/9/10

After getting the okay from my wife, making the call to my good friend and golfing partner Mike, donning a pair of sadly under-used golf slacks and heading outside, I discovered it was 143 degrees in the shade. The Weather Channel said it was actually 94, but their thermometers are obviously faulty.
The temperature was both a good and bad thing - good because the intense heat meant there was no need for an hour-long warm-up which I wouldn't have had time for anyway, bad because...well, because besides sitting next to a swimming pool with half a dozen iced drinks lined up, I'm not sure anything can be much fun when it's so miserably hot.

But Lake Padden is perfect for scorching summer evenings. Not only is it a postcard at this time of year, the trees offer plenty of shade. And when the course is in such fantastic condition, it takes a lot of bad golf to ruin your evening. Fortunately, despite having played so little this year, I actually hit it okay. I kept it well below bogey golf and were it not for an appalling drive at the 14th where I somehow ended up with a ghastly triple-bogey seven (it really could have been a lot worse), the scorecard might well have been a keeper. Mike shot an impressive 37 on the front, but lost his tempo a little on the back. Still, we had an absolute blast and can't wait to tee it up again.
I'm not altogether sure why I just told you all that. There's something about playing decent golf on a great course with a good friend that makes you realize how lucky you were to be shown/taught/introduced to the game.
Pass it on.

If you happen to be reading this before 8am Saturday morning and have a few spare hours, get a long to North Bellingham for the ESPN National Golf Challenge, which aims to find the 'America's Best 2 Some'. Entry fee is $90 for a non-member and for that you get your green fee, cart, a dozen Callaway balls, and the chance to progress to regional finals then national finals in Las Vegas. There is also a guaranteed payout of $500 for winners in Gross, Net and Senior Net divisions. And, for an aditional $50 entry fee, you can triple your chances of winning by partnering up with all three members of your fourball.

I received an interesting email Friday evening from the folk organizing the charter plane taking players who are competing at the John Deere Classic (JDC) to Edinburgh for next week's Open Championship at St Andrews. Actually, two jets (a Boeing MD-83 and Boeing 737) will fly the 24 players who are at TPC Deere Run this week and also exempt for the Open, plus two relatives each. It used to be the 100-seat, all-first class Boeing 767 the Dallas Mavericks used that got the players to Scotland by 10am Monday morning, but apparently that's not available this year. The players headed east are:

  1. Jason Bohn
  2. K.J. Choi
  3. Tim Clark
  4. Glen Day
  5. Jason Day (qualified Friday for B.O. as an alternate; Greg Norman pulled out)
  6. Jason Dufner
  7. David Duval
  8. Rickie Fowler (qualified Monday for British via World Ranking)
  9. Mathew Goggin
  10. Todd Hamilton
  11. Zach Johnson
  12. Richard S. Johnson
  13. Marc Leishman
  14. Davis Love III
  15. George McNeill
  16. Cameron Percy
  17. Tom Pernice, Jr.
  18. Kenny Perry
  19. D.A. Points
  20. John Senden
  21. Michael Sim
  22. Steve Stricker
  23. Jason Day
  24. Bubba Watson

Sean Hair who withdrew from the JDC is also going as is Ricky Barnes who likewise isn't in the field this week. Rocco Mediate will be working for ABC and JL Lewis is going a week early for the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie. The leading player at the JDC inside the top-five who is not otherwise exempt will also need to locate his passport in a hurry before boarding the flight to Scotland. The price per seat is actually a donation to the John Deere Charity Fund of $1,250 - not bad for a first-class seat on a non-stop flight from Quad City International Airport to Scotland. The email stresses that 'Players are never separated from their clubs'.
It's an interesting move that has certainly resulted in better fields at the JDC since the idea first flew three years ago.

And speaking of the Open, I've been fortunate to attend three Championships  at the Old Course - 1990 (Nick Faldo), 1995 (John Daly) and 2000 (Tiger Woods). I was there in a professional capacity in 2000, the year Woods won by eight strokes, and had the enviable task of following the world number one inside and outside the ropes for six straight days. I wouldn't say I was stalking him exactly, but it was my job to have him sign my T-shirt which the publication I worked for would then auction off for charity. I went wherever he did which, on the Tuesday, meant hailing a taxi on The Scores and bombing it up to the Dukes Course where it was rumored he'd found a quiet place to practice. Unfortunately, it was a hoax, a red herring. I spent a fruitless couple of hours awaiting his arrival which never happened. Still wearing the same T-shirt five days later (with egg yolk stains from Saturday morning's breakfast, plus a lot of sweat and beer), I did evetually corner him in the press tent. Without changing direction, looking me in the face or saying a word, he whipped out a black Sharpie and scribbled something totally illegible on my tummy - that is to say on the part of the shirt that was covering my tummy. I immediately had to take it off and store it for safe keeping. I'm not sure what it fetched in the end, but I do know someone forked out an awful lot of money for a smelly, dirty T-shirt with messy, black scribble on it.

I wish I could be at the Old Course, but instead I'll be going to Bend, OR for a few days' vacation with the family. Picking a winner is never an easy task with the quality of today's major fields (who predicted YE Yang, Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman, or Stewart Cink would win the majors they won?), but at St Andrews the world's best usually rises to the top. JH Taylor (twice), James Braid, Bobby Jones, Peter Thompson, Bobby Locke, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus (twice), Seve Ballesteros, Faldo, and Woods (twice) have all won here. But then so have Daly, Tony Lema, Kel Nagle, Richard Burton, and Densmore Shute who, with all due respect, weren't considered the best in the world the day they won.
Yang was 110th in the world when he won the PGA Championship at Hazeltine last year. 110th in the world at the moment is Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, a four-time winner on the European Tour who qualified for his third Open Championship by finishing 17th in last year's Race to Dubai.
I'm not picking Gonzalo to win, but who's to say he can't?

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