Phil Leads in Phoenix

Philly Mick ties the course record at 60 and vaults into the lead at the Phoenix, errr, FBR Open with youngster Kevin Na.

Phil MickelsonThe Phoenix FBR Open began rather mundanely for Phil Mickelson with a +2 round of 71 in the strong, gusting Thursday winds at the TPC of Scottsdale. Friday’s round was anything but mundane: a blistering 60 put Philly Mick in a tie for the lead heading into weekend play at the rowdiest stop on tour.

Mickelson, an Arizona State alumnus who lived in Scottsdale before moving to California, tied the course record (Grant Waite in 1996, Mark Calcavecchia in 2001). He birdied his last five holes of the round, so 59 was never really a tangible possibility, but the round marks Phil’s best ever PGA Tour score. Many recall the 59 Phil shot in last November’s Grand Slam of Golf. Said Phil of his 60, “It was a wonderful day. No complaints here.”

ESPN: “Screaming, Ignorant Drunks Good for Golf”

Are drunk, vicious, obnoxious galleries good for the game of golf? ESPN doesn’t think so. Instead, they think it’s “great!”

FBR Rowdy CrowdThe FBR Open, formerly the Phoenix Open, has a long history as the rowdiest stop on Tour. We mentioned it in our tournament preview, and ESPN has gone a bit too far in suggesting that “rowdy galleries, like the one at the FBR Open’s 16th hole, are good for the PGA Tour.”

Robert Thompson and Jay Flemma have comment on this already, but I feel strongly enough to add yet another vote in favor of maintaining respect, dignity, and intelligence in professional golf.

Brian Wacker, who should be relieved of his “assistant editor,” role goes so far as to suggest that the rowdy, beer-guzzling, insult-yelling crowd (that has thrown oranges at players and toted loaded guns) “…is not only good for the game, it’s great for the game.” He suggests that the energy at places like the FBR 16th creates an energy that “transcends the game and thrusts it into mainstream America.”

G Clip

The G Clip is not something you’d find in a strip club, but it is something you’ll find on the belts of practical golfers.

G Clip ColorsThroughout my years of golfing, I’ve developed a system. Tees and and coins in one pocket, pencil and ball mark repair tool in other. If I put my pencil in with the tees, well, it’s hard to tell the difference quickly, and the same can be said of mixing repair tool and coin. If I’m thirsty at the turn and only have three quarters, well, it’s PowerAde or ball markers for the back nine. PowerAde usually wins out.

I’ve tried ball markers in the past. One slipped on to the grip end of my putter, but after losing 27 ball markers in the bottom of my bag I gave up on it. The ball marker you find on gloves is inexcusably cheesy, as are the ones that you find on some shoes. They all paled in comparison to a simple quarter or dime.

Then I tried the 4-in-one G Clip.

2005 Callaway Golf New Products

One hacker’s opinion on Callaway’s 2005 new products to hit the market.

CallawayMy annual trek to Orlando included a round of golf with the good folks from Callaway Golf, giving me a chance to try some of the company’s new clubs and balls. While the really new stuff — like either of the prototype Fusion drivers being tested on tour, or the softer prototype HX Tour ball that Phil Mickelson is playing — stayed under wraps, there was still a wide berth of Berthas to put through their paces. Here’s one hacker’s opinion on Callaway’s latest products to hit the market, based on a morning of scramble golf.

The Shark Swims Up on 50

Greg Norman, on the cusp of becoming eligible for the Champions Tour, has the opportunity to enhance the tour’s popularity. If he plays.

Greg NormanWhen the Champions Tour first became popular in the 1980s (then known as the Senior Tour), much of the reason for its popularity was due to the fact that “baby-boomers” could watch their childhood idols play tournament golf again. Players such as Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Billy Casper, all great players in the 1960s could now be seen competing and winning once again. It was competitive golf and wonderful nostalgia all rolled into one.

Fast forward to today, and we see that the Champions Tour’s popularity has significantly waned. Players like Palmer and Chi Chi Rodriguez who had been instrumental in the Champions Tour’s initial popularity have long since shortened their playing schedules and are no longer competitive. In recent years, players like Hale Irwin have dominated the tour, and while they have displayed great skill on the links, they have failed to capture a great deal of attention. Let’s face it, while Irwin is a great player, is there anyone who can say they grew up rooting for Hale Irwin?

Once is Enough for Langer

Victorious in 2004, European Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer has withdrawn his name from captaincy in 2006.

Bernhard LangerEarly in November of 2004, the United States chose Tom Lehman as its captain for the 2006 Ryder Cup. The European team has taken a bit longer to choose its leader for the 2006 campaign. Ryder Cup super-star Colin Montgomerie decided he’s not done trouncing American opponents and withdrew his name from consideration. This left three possible choices: Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, and Bernhard Langer. Better make that two. Now it appears Langer has decided he’s going to step aside and allow someone else to fill the position. Although Langer removed himself from the captain’s seat, he still has ambitions of being in Ireland saying, “I have every intention of being a playing member of the 2006 European team.” This comes as bittersweet news to American golf fans considering Langer’s 10 Ryder Cup appearances and 21-15-6 cumulative record.

Phoenix, errr, FBR Open Kicks Off

The Phoenix, errr, FBR Open, the PGA Tour’s rowdiest event, kicks off tomorrow. As a wise man once said “You gotta fight for your right to party!”

FBR touts tomorrow’s Phoenix FBR Open as “The Party’s On.” This tour stop, more than any other, is an event unto itself. The raucous crowds sure know how to throw a party, and they do so all across the TPC of Scottsdale’s 18 holes.

The party’s hot spot is undeniably the 162-yard par-3 16th, a bowl-shaped hole in typical stadium course style. 7,000 noisy (and quite often drunk) fans gather round, jeering and booing golfers who don’t go at the pin and hollering for the ones who do.

Fans sing college fight songs, “Happy Birthday,” and “O, Canada” for Mike Weir. They shower the tee with hundreds of beer cups, as Tiger Woods found out at the 1997 event. Tiger hasn’t been back since 2001 when an orange thrown by a fan narrowly missed his head as he putted on the ninth. In 1999, a heckler was removed and later found to be carrying a loaded pistol in his fanny pack.

Wie Wie, Michelle to Play in Evian

Michelle Wie is going to play the Evian Masters in France and may very well play the Women’s British Open if granted a spot.

Wie MichelleMichelle Wie. Yeah, you thought we were done talking about her, right? Psych! Wie has accepted an invitation to play in the Evian Masters in France and, because of a new policy in LPGA Tour rules, she’ eligible to play in the Women’s British Open as well. Those starts would bump Wie’s LPGA Tour start tally to eight and would include all four majors.

B.J. Wie confirmed the news late yesterday: that his daughter had received a sponsor’s exemption to the Evian Masters for a second straight year. Golfweek is quoting someone close to the Ladies Golf Union saying that Wie could be offered one of the two spots available to top amateurs for the British Open. LGU chief Andy Salmon said that Wie’s invitation is “being given due consideration” only at this time.

B.J.’s hopes remain high. “We hope to play back-to-back tournaments,” he said. The Evian Masters is played the week before the British Open. The two women’s Opens – US and British – do not acount against the six sponsor’s exemptions a player is allowed to use on the LPGA Tour.

Wie tied for 33rd at last year’s Evian Masters, the only time she missed the top 20 in seven LPGA starts.

Photo Credit: © Unknown.

2005 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic

Justin Leonard, using new Nike equipment, has gone and won a tournament already!

Justin LeonardJustin Leonard may have just switched to Nike, but it didn’t hold him back at all as he won his second event, the 2005 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, with the new sticks:

Driver Nike Ignite (410cc) 9.5°
3, 4 Wood Nike Ignite T-60
Irons (3-PW) Nike Forged Blade
Wedges (SW, LW) Nike Forged 54°, 58°
Putter Scotty Cameron Newport
Ball Nike One Black

There was speculation that Leonard, one of the better wedge players on tour, hadn’t yet switched to Nike wedges, but that’s not true. People may have confused Leonard with Phil Mickelson, the new Callaway poster boy, who still plays with his Vokeys. How such confusion could occur is beyond me. After all, Leonard doesn’t even need a training bra! At any rate, it looks like that equipment change wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Photo Credit: © Nike.