Brandel On His Competitive Return At The Old Course

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Brandel Chamblee qualified for the Senior Open at Carnoustie after years on the sidelines and the Golf Channel analyst writes about the experience.

This was fun and my dictionary did get cracked to look up obdurate:

My ball striking started to improve, such that after a few sessions with Lucas, I could hit scores and scores of shots that, passing through the right window in the sky, wouldn’t move but the few feet I wanted them to fade. Confidence can leave one like a thunderbolt, but it comes back incrementally. So there I was, a humorous blend of contradictions when asked how I thought I would do – somewhere between 64 and 78, I’d think. The analyst in me said, no chance. The player in me had left a long time ago. The truth was, I didn’t know. 

Besides being asked how I felt I would do, the question I got more often was if I realized how much fuel my poor play might give those looking to criticize me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t give it some thought, but the thought of competing again means one has to risk embarrassment with an obdurate mix of ignorance and certainty. 

"I have had rules officials, PGA Tour staff, journos, spectators, players, caddies all coming up to me to say Jarrod is the most loved golfer they’ve encountered on the PGA Tour."

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Thanks to reader Ray for Robert Allenby's passionate Players Voice piece on his hero Jarrod Lyle. 

But here’s what I do know: in life, you don’t have too many top quality friends – ones you can trust, ones you can call upon. You can count them on one hand.

Jarrod’s on that hand for me. There’s a bond and a trust that I will cherish forever.

I love him like a brother and count myself fortunate that I have had him in my life for this long.

He’s a top bloke and an inspiration to millions. He is loved and admired all around the world.

I hope he is pain-free and at peace.

He is, and will always be, my hero.

And for those wondering, here is Tripp Isenhour's GoFundMe page set up for those wanting to leave something for Jarrod's girls.

"Lyle Makes Toughest Call"

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Martin Blake for Golf Australia and the horrendous news of the beloved Jarrod Lyle opting to no longer seek treatment. The two-time Web.com Tour winner has twice beaten cancer but will now seek treatment for pain only. 

Ben Everill at PGATour.com talked to several Australians about the life and legacy of Lyle. 

This from Adam Scott:

“I can’t imagine being in that position; it’s unthinkable,” Scott said. “He is one of the best blokes there is. Given all the difficulties he’s had since his late teens, he has lived the best life he could with the tough cards he has been dealt.

“He has done better than anyone would have. He was out on TOUR for so long, playing such good golf while battling illness. He has been through it all. His positivity and general demeanor have been so good and so infectious on others; it’s a good way to think of how I should live my life.”

Bryson's Lousy Handshake: Keep Calm And Carry On

Of course his brusque handshake was rude. But any sports fan who watches tennis or college basketball knows there have been thousands of equally as quick and chilly handshakes in the heat of battle. The difference in Bryson DeChambeau's brisk congratulatory post-round greeting: freshly-minted winner McEvoy did nothing to warrant rudeness other than make a putt at the 18th green and finally win when a young, passionate player made a major mess of the last hole. 

For this, DeChambeau has apologized.

But on a weekend when Sergio Garcia could have hurt someone (or himself) tomahawking his clubs, the reaction to DeChambeau's incredible final round meltdown is threatening to get out of hand. 

Are folks just relishing the chance to pick on DeChambeau, who makes his share of detractors with extreme confidence? After all, he took of his hat and did shake hands with his playing partner, albeit in rapid fashion.

When he's not running hot, DeChambeau can actually be one of golf's more respectful young players. He calls adults he doesn't know Mr. or Mrs., studies the history of the game, and wants to set a fine example. That he doesn't exhibit this side more often and to the frustration of many is for him to work out. 

In a sport where we have seen so few genuine characters in recent years, it would be a shame to see DeChambeau's individuality and eccentricity muted by a Zapruder-like analysis of a split-second action. 

Granted, the recent signs of excess stress--including this amazing Golf Channel footage from The Open--are disconcerting for a player on the cusp of making his first Ryder Cup team. Yes, the desperation and frustration with his game should be noted and he probably needs a short vacation. But to rule him out of Ryder Cup consideration because he did not make perfect eye contact to the liking of some, seems excessive.

R.I.P. Bruce Lietzke

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One of his era's best ballstrikers and a true joy to watch shape shots, longtime PGA Tour member Bruce Lietzke fell victim to an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 67.

Jim McCabe at PGATour.com details the life of a great natural talent whose glorious rhythm and distinctive left-to-right ball flight would have made him a fan favorite in the shot tracer era. 

When word circulated a little more than a year ago about Lietzke’s cancer, it was a jolt to his friends, and one could make the case that few players of his era were as beloved as this big man who never took himself too seriously. He was once asked to compare his golf game to one of the many cars he kept at his farm. “An old El Camino,” he laughed. “Half ugly, half decent. It fits me more than anything.”

“He was a classic, and that’s the right word,” said Rogers, who along with Jerry Pate – Lietzke’s brother-in-law – and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw accompanied Lietzke for some early hospital appointments more than a year ago. Curtis Strange visited and kept in touch with Rogers, and the Wadkins boys – Lanny and Bobby – were part of the close circle, too.

“In the end,” said Rogers, “the Good Lord felt 67 years was enough, that he was satisfied Bruce deserved eternal peace. It’s a good place to be.”

Here's an analysis from Gary Koch of Lietzke's fade-bias swing from his later career.

Van de Velde And Brief Bagman From 1999 Reunite At St. Andrews

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The feel-good stories abound this week at the Old Course where the Senior Open is underway, and Ryan Lavner, who compiled an oral history of the '99 Open, reports on another: Jean Van de Velde reuniting with his long lost caddie Christophe Angiolini

“I said, ‘How about you come caddie for me?’” Van de Velde recalled recently. “And he said, ‘You bet.’ So that will be fun.”

They teamed up for a 1-over 73 Thursday in what is believed to be the first time they’ve been on the same team since their short-lived partnership ended in August 1999.

Earlier that year, Angiolini, in just his third year as a professional caddie, was looping for Fabrice Tarnaud when he heard that Van de Velde was looking for a new bagman. Van de Velde and Angiolini began working together in April ’99 and instantly hit it off. 

Van de Velde opened with a 73 on a day of incredible scoring at the Old Course, led by Kirk Triplett and Thaworn Wiratchant's 65.

Couples: "I think my time's running out."

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Golf World's John Strege talks at length with Fred Couples, who considers his made cut and T38 at the Masters a victory given the poor state of his back.

Couples gives it a go at this week's U.S. Senior Open and at the Senior Open at St. Andrews but beyond that he's not sure he'll play much more competitive golf.

The trials of bending are evident in the makeup of his golf clubs. The longest iron in his bag is a 5-iron, for now. “I no longer have a 4-iron,” he said. “I have five woods in my bag [three of them hybrids] and the next one to go out will probably be my 5-iron, because [hybrids] are just a little longer and they’re easier to hit and I don’t have to bend down.”

To test his back, “to see if I could play,” in advance of the senior event last week, Couples played in the member-guest at his home club, Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif. “I played a practice round and three days, and I didn’t move very well Sunday or Monday.

“To be honest with you, the last couple years my back has been not so good."

Bryson's Use Of A Compass And Protractor Is Under Investigation

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Jimmy Walker announced (in writing) that he leaves a ball down as a backstop to help someone he likes or someone he feels sorry for, then Phil Mickelson hit a moving ball and said he'd been waiting to do it in competition for a long time. He was not, as far as we know, punished.

But a pro golfer employs a compass and protractor--a device at least 50% of the players could not identify by name, much less use--and Ponte Vedra is investigating. Strange times indeed.

Will Gray reports for GolfChannel.com on what DeChambeau was told about these potentially not "allowable" devices he's been using since October, 2016 to double check the accuracy of hole locations.

“They said, ‘Hey, we just want to let you know that we’re investigating the device and seeing if it’s allowable,’” DeChambeau said. “I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”

For his part, DeChambeau handled the news well.

“It’s a compass. It’s been used for a long, long time. Sailors use it,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just funny that people take notice when I start putting and playing well.”

Roundup: Peter Thomson Remembered

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The remembrances are pouring in for Australia's greatest golfer and global golf ambassador emeritus Peter Thomson.

The New York Times obituary by Richard Goldstein. 

The Guardian's version by Peter Mason.

Golf History Today has put together a nice roundup page of some insights into the man and online videos.

Jerry Tarde remembers a longtime Golf Digest contributor, including this:

Over lunch at our offices in Connecticut, I once asked him about Jack Nicklaus’ design work. “Nicklaus courses are like Jack himself—grim and humorless, with sharp edges,” he said.

Martin Blake files a wonderful Australian perspective. This was one of many special anecdotes:

Momentarily he worked a day job in the AG Spalding factory in Melbourne, testing golf balls and promoting the product. But it did not last for too long and in any case, he was finding places to play around the world, notably on the bouncy, wind-swept courses of Britain. “I liked playing on a course where the ball bounces. As time went by, I found I had an advantage. Somehow, I comprehended that style of play, watching the ball bounce forward. But I had to learn both, frankly – bouncing and non-bouncing.’’

John Hopkins had several memories in this Global Golf Post quick take, but this was just extra special and spoke to the man after his playing prime (at least until Senior Tour golf):

A few years later another image of Peter Thomson formed in my mind. Covering Opens in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I would be sitting at my desk when Peter would stroll in to the media centre, possibly still in his golf clothes with a sweater placed jauntily over his shoulders and carrying a portable typewriter. He would settle himself at a desk and bash out 800 words about his play and that of others in that day’s Open Championship and get them transmitted to The Age, the newspaper in his native Melbourne, Australia, or so I believe. 

John Strege on how Thomson kept the golf swing very simple and shared his philosophy.

Mike Clayton says Thomson left the game in a better place in this Golf Australia piece.

In a special State of the Game, Rod Morri talks to Clayton about Thomson's life and his memories of the five-time Open Champion:

A lovely PGA of Australia tribute:

R.I.P. Hubert Green

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The two-time major winner and 19-time PGA Tour winner passed away from throat cancer. He was 71.

His My Shot with Golf Digest's Guy Yocom is a great summary of his career and memories, including his near-Masters win.

He's best remembered for his U.S. Open win at Southern Hills, played under a death threat. The USGA's highlight film from that win:

Green's 2007 World Golf Hall of Fame Speech:

R.I.P. Peter Thomson

The Sydney Morning Herald's story.

And this from Golf Australia, with more remembrances of the five-time Open Champion, architect, writer, global ambassador and World Golf Hall of Famer coming soon. 

The family of Australian golfing great Peter Thomson announce his passing on Wednesday 20 June 2018.

He had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and lost his brave battle at home in Melbourne surrounded by family at 9.00 a.m. Born on 23 August 1929, he was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win the British Open went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equalled in the 20th and 21st Centuries only by American Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit, he won nine times in 1985, setting a record that may never be broken. As well as a great player he was an outstanding contributor to the game, serving as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organisation where he was chairman for five years. He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service. 

Peter is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

They ask for privacy in their bereavement and will announce funeral arrangements in the next few days.

Two films of Thomson Open wins:

Rory McIlroy On Playing Golf For Fun

This has little to do with the U.S. Open, or maybe it will, but of late there has been a sense some of today's best players rarely get to play their sport for fun. Or seem to have fun.

From his 2018 U.S. Open press conference:

Q. Rory, most professionals don't like to play fun golf. You talk to them, they don't know anything about Friar's Head or National or any place else.

Can you talk about your what impetus is, meaning how do you approach a fun golf round versus a professional round? And the fun golf you played this week, does that put you in a different mindset for this week?

RORY McILROY: It does. Alex, I would say for maybe five or six years, I never played fun golf. It was all to do with getting ready to play tournaments, and this is -- you know, I didn't understand people that went out and played a lot.

But basically, it's been since my dad became a member at Seminole, and I was able to go over and play a lot of golf with him, that I really started to enjoy fun golf again and playing these different courses.

And it's a real treat to be able to show up at any golf course in the country or the world and get out and play it and have a bit of fun.

And I think it does put you in a different frame of mind. You're relaxed out there, and maybe that sort of bleeds into your mindset whenever you're here in a big championship. It's no different. I think that's the thing. If I've got a shot that I need to execute under pressure here this week, it's no different than playing that shot when I'm out there playing with my dad or my buddies or whatever it is.

So obviously, there is a separation of the two, but the more you can get into that mindset of being relaxed and enjoying it, the better you're going to play.

Adam Scott On Golfers Forced Out Of Their Comfort Zones

On the eve of the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson Classic, Adam Scott was asked about the PGA Tour locker room talk surrounding Trinity Forest and the uncomfortable demands the course will make.

Look, just most majorities just don't like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play.

You know, people are going to get put out of their comfort zones and not many people like that, you know.

The greatest players have all managed to succeed out of their comfort zones and learn to love links or learn to love a parkland golf to succeed, and I think the greatest champions over time have all done that and whoever is going to be here this week will be someone who really embraces the different challenges of this golf.

You're not going to be able to fight it out there this week. You're going to have to go with it and hit a nice shot from 200 out one time and catch the wrong side of the hill and you'll have some putt that you would never feel like you deserve but that's a different style of golf than target golf that we're used to playing.

You're just going to have to do your best to two-putt it or however many putts you need to make to get down and move on and get the right rub of the green on the next one. That's probably the links side of golf. There's a bit more rub of the green, a little less predictability.

I think if I think about Tiger who has grown up playing golf in America but just had this instant desire to love links golf and win the Opens and he showed so much creativity in his game that was apparently just suited to win on the U.S. Tour, he embraced the challenges of all parts of the game and he did it all.

So, it's kind of how I see it. The guy that does that this week will do well.

Doug Ford Remembered

Golf's oldest living major champion, Doug Ford, passed away Wednesday.

Jim McCabe filed this excellent tribute and remembrance of a golf life well-lived.

For proof, consider that Ford – who considered a professional baseball career before choosing golf – was like a lot of young men of the World War II era and put military service first. After a stint with the Coast Guard Air Division, Ford returned to playing competitive golf, but didn’t decide to turn pro until 1949, when he was 26.

Why the delay? Ford said it was because he made a better living by playing money games. “In fact, he told me that (former USGA Executive Director) Joe Dey walked up to him at a tournament and said, ‘We know you play for money, so you can’t enter as an amateur,’ ” said grandson Scott Ford, a teaching professional on Long Island. “My grandfather told me that’s pretty much the day he decided he was a professional golfer.”

Here is Ford recalling the shot that won The Masters.

National Teacher Day Lets Famous Golf Instructors Say What They Really Think

The Forecaddie on two of golf's very best saying more than normal about their pupils. Nice work by Morning Drive's Damon Hack pulling these nuggets from today's guests.

Pete Cowen on Henrik Stenson's focus levels (hint, he's not jazzed).  Here's the clip from GolfChannel.com.

Butch Harmon on wanting to see Dustin Johnson work harder. 

And the Harmon clip.

Duval: "This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days"

Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and former world No. 1 David Duval cobbled together a fancy 7-under-par 65 Thursday in the Zurich Classic.

Now a full-time Golf Channel contributor, the 46-year-old spoke to Ryan Lavner about what exactly he's trying to do at the Zurich, making a run at the title all that much more fun if he and Furyk can keep it going, plus other stuff.

One highlight:

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”

Ko: Leadbetter Responds To His Critics

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Lydia Ko opened with a 70 in the Hugel-JTBC LA Open but the off-course discussion about her career trajectory continues. A few weeks after Kevin Van Valkenburg's ESPN The Magazine profile of Ko, where former instructor David Leadbetter's work is harshly evaluated by several golf observers, the famed instructor is pushing back.

Here is what might have prompted Leadbetter to respond, from Van Valkenburg's story:

Leadbetter helped Faldo remake his swing in the '80s, when he was the No. 1 player in the world, and he was Els' coach for nearly 20 years, when Els won three of his four majors. But he was also given the derisive nickname Lead Poison by tour players and media members after Wie, another teenage prodigy, failed to blossom. Wie, who recently won her first tournament in nearly four years, continues working with Leadbetter.

"Lydia Ko, from the time she was a child, everyone could see where she was headed," says Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player who now works as an analyst for the Golf Channel. "David Leadbetter completely changed the DNA of her golf swing. Why in the world would you do that? Because you want to put your stamp or signature on the masterpiece that is this kid?"

But Ko continued to play well before firing Leadbetter. She currently works with Ted Oh.

On his website, Leadbetter posted this rebuttal today. He targets Lydia's father and fatigue as key issues. 

Along with all of this, her father, a non-accomplished golfer, heard rumors that she needed to change her swing and made suggestions to Lydia to change it - independently of her coaches. Sean Hogan traveled with her to the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship during the last part of the season and observed Lydia being very confused [with her swing].

Amazingly enough, despite all of this, she had an excellent chance of remaining No. 1 in the world with a solid finish at the last tournament of the year. She shot 62 (10 under par) in the second round and things seemed to be on track. Her last round, unfortunately, was very average and she just lost out on winning the LPGA Player of the Year.

In this day and age, we have ways of measuring energy output in the swing. In the last quarter of the year, she had lost 20% of her energy which could only mean one thing - complete fatigue. Unfortunately, to the unknowledgeable, this can be misconstrued as experiencing swing issues.

Kerr On Ko: "Her game’s not in good shape"

No one wants to kick Lydia Ko when she's down, but given the turnover of coaches and caddies she's fired in recent years, this assessment filed by Golf Channel's Randall Mell from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup is noteworthy. (The event was won by Inbee Park, who held off world No. 363 Laura Davies among others, as Ron Sirak writes in this game story from Phoenix.) 

From Mell's story on Ko:

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”