Lehman adds another victory on the Champions Tour

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Tom Lehman

Tom Lehman

Some golfers never stop tinkering with their golf swing. Others, like Tom Lehman, simply go with what they have.

 

Nobody can doubt that Lehman’s approach has been and continues to be a winner.

Lehman added another victory last week at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic, his second in four starts this year on the Champions Tour.

Lehman has four wins on the Champions Tour to go along with five career victories on the PGA TOUR, including a major triumph at the 1996 British Open.

He is No. 1 in the greens in regulation statistic on both tours. He’s at 80.56 percent on the PGA TOUR and at 83.33 percent on the Champions Tour. By any standard, that’s a remarkable achievement.

Lehman learned the basics from his late father, Jim, and has never forgotten them.

“The grip and the posture and the position,” Tom Lehman said. “He always talked about making sure you turn your shoulders. But he wasn’t a real technical golfer. So I basically learned the swing on my own, getting the basics and then hitting shots.”

Lehman has studied under two men — Les Bolstad, a Minnesota legend in golf circles, and for the past 20 years or so, Jim Flick.

“Les kind of got me on the right path with my swing, and then Jim kind of kept me there,” Lehman said. “I’ve always lived by the philosophy that you find what you do well and then perfect it. What I have done well is draw the ball, and so every teacher I ever had, every lesson I ever had I always said don’t ever, ever, ever try to get me to do anything where I can’t draw the ball.

“If you think I hook it too much, then make it less high or something, but I always want to hook it. And I was telling Jim this, if you ever try to get me to hit it left or right, I’m dropping you like a bad habit. You know, we’re done. So obviously he never, ever pushed that, never even tried to go there. He simply just helped me work through my swing issues until I could fix them in the middle of a round and then always, always keeping the path of my swing in such a way that I could hit a draw.”

Lehman, 52, has moved to the top of the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup standings and money list ($718,038) with his two victories. The first came at the Allianz Championship.

Lehman’s game was in good shape as the Mississippi event approached.

“I really expected to have a good week,” he said. “I expected to play well. You don’t ever predict a victory. But I did feel that, knowing the golf course is a good course, that it would probably fit my style of play.

“A lot of the guys out here have been telling me for a year, you need to go there and play, you’ll love the course. It’s really good for you, and I think they were right.”

Lehman’s win in Mississippi came 20 years after he won a Ben Hogan Tour (now Nationwide Tour) at Windance Country Club in Gulfport, Miss., in a playoff with Tim Straub and John Wilson. One of the other competitors in that event was Olin Browne, who finished T5, the same finish he posted Sunday at Fallen Oak.

Lehman is the only player to have claimed Player of the Year awards on both the Nationwide Tour (1991) and the PGA TOUR (1996). With two victories on the Champions Tour in 2011, Lehman he’s in position to contend for Champions Tour Player of the Year and complete an unprecedented hat trick.

He’s also the fourth straight former major championship winner to claim a Champions Tour title this year. Lehman began the string with his win at the Allianz Championship, followed by Bernhard Langer (The ACE Group Classic) and Nick Price (Toshiba Classic).

Champions Tour Insider Notes:

Fred Couples remembers the noise. Couples was on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club in 1986. He was almost close enough to shake hands with Jack Nicklaus, who was putting on the ninth green. Nicklaus made the birdie putt, the first of three straight on his way to winning the Masters at age 46.

“It was loud and furious,” Couples said. “Great.”

Couples, who will tee it up Thursday for the 27th time in the Masters, was too preoccupied to see much else of the historic victory by Nicklaus until he went back to watch a highlight reel.

Couples, who won his Green Jacket in 1992, has come close to adding another on more than one occasion. He finished sixth last year a few years earlier, in 2006, couples tied for third behind Phil Mickelson.

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Sandy Lyle returns to form after win in China

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Sandy Lyle in China

Sandy Lyle in China

It had been a long time. Too long. Nineteen years between victories plays serious tricks on the mind.

But Sandy Lyle endured. What else was he going to do?

The antidote is to just keep trying, keep grinding, keep looking forward.

When the moment finally arrived two weeks ago in China, it was a little unnerving. Like a pounding toothache.

Lyle began the final round of the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship at China’s sprawing Mission Hills complex solidly positioned to end his drought. He had a two-shot lead over Australian Peter Fowler.

“Even the start of the day, it was kind of gut-turning,” Lyle said. “A little bit like waiting at the dentist, not knowing what is before you, painful or easygoing. It was a horrible feeling, that I want to get this over with.”

When it did end, Lyle finally had his first victory since the 1992 Volvo Masters, his 18th European Tour title. This victory came on Europe’s version of the Champions Tour but it made little difference to Lyle when it was, or where, or even how.

“I’ve always said any win, even on a par-3 course, would be well received in my mind since it’s been such a long time … 19 years,” said Lyle, who is winless in 49 starts on the Champions Tour since 2008. “It’s happened at least.”

That it came in golf’s growing hotbed of China with his lifelong adversaries like Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance in the field made it even sweeter. Lyle shot a bogey-free final round 70 over the World Cup Course at Mission Hills for a 12-under-par 204 total, three better than Fowler.

“You wonder after about four or five years whether you’ll ever win again let alone nearly 20, so this is very special,” said the 53-year-old Scot.

A lot has been made of the fact that two Scots — Martin Laird on the PGA TOUR and Paul Lawrie on the European Tour — made it into the winner’s circle last week on their respective tours. Less has been made of the fact that the first Scot to win in a fortnight was Lyle, the two-time major champion who next week will return to Augusta National Golf Club where he won the Masters in 1988.

Lyle watched “pretty closely” as Laird and Lawrie won their tournaments.

“I was pretty pleased to see Paul win in Spain,” Lyle said. “He had a little drought (nine years) since his last win. Then you’ve got Martin Laird in Orlando. I didn’t see any of the golf, busy at the airport at the time. It was very character building (for Laird). We know the last few holes can be very tough, no matter how good a player you are. He did great.”

Lyle and Laird hook up on Facebook from time to time and they have arranged a pairing for the Par 3 Contest Wednesday at Augusta National, where they will personally congratulate each other on their victories.

Just as Laird got it done down the stretch at Bay Hill, so did Lyle in China. Always a long hitter, Lyle blasted a good tee shot, 330 yards downhill, on the final hole.

“Even then you’re still wondering,” said Lyle, who was nursing a one-shot lead. “A wedge second shot 140 yards. You can still mess up here.”

Those are the doubts that set in when you haven’t won in nearly two decades.

He didn’t mess up.

“I wouldn’t say it was squeaky clean but solid enough that it tells me the game is there when I need it,” Lyle said. “I played the last hole pretty solid. No bogeys, two birdies but only because I wasn’t holing any putts. One bogey in three days on a Nicklaus golf course.”

Lyle, the 1985 British Open champion, started the 2011 season with a runner-up finish in the Handa Australian Senior Open and tied for fifth in the Handa Cup Senior Masters in Japan to take the lead in the European Senior Tour Order of Merit. He knew he was getting close.

“My trophy cabinet has been gathering dust over the years so I feel relieved to get a win and it’s even better that it’s here in China on this course,” he said. “This answers a lot of questions I had about myself.”

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Watson and Trevino take a moment to reflect their toughest opponent

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Nicklaus Victory Pose

Nicklaus Victory Pose

They were two of the toughest opponents he’s ever encountered.

Their fierce rivalries with Jack Nicklaus were special, a piece of golf history worthy of all the words — spoken and written – they have generated over the years.

Who can forget the clash of titans when Tom Watson defeated Nicklaus at Turnberry to win the Claret Jug in 1977? Or the finish at Pebble Beach at the 1982 U.S. Open?

Lee Trevino won six major championships. In four of those, Nicklaus was the runner-up, including a playoff in the 1971 U.S. Open.

We all remember where we were on that Sunday in 1986 when Nicklaus rekindled the magic and won the Masters for an unprecedented sixth time at age 46.

What constitutes history? We know it when we see it and 25 years later the impact of Nicklaus’s victory at Augusta National continues to reverberate. That’s history.

Ask Trevino and Watson to recall the occasion and there is no hesitation. They know where they were on April 13, 1986.

Trevino was anchored in an airport bar, glass in hand. Watson was right there on the course at Augusta National where he had a first-hand look — once again — to the greatness of Nicklaus.

“When I finished, Jack hadn’t teed off,” said Trevino, who finished 47th. “My wife and I are driving to the airport. Jack is on 14. And then he eagles 15. There was a bar across from the gate at the airport and I am drinking double scotches.”

And finding it impossible to pull himself away from the television in the lounge.

“Hold the plane, hold the plane,” Trevino said. “We are screaming at this guy to hold the plane. Everybody is watching. The airport is going nuts. My wife and I are there and I’m hitting it hard. Come on, Jack.”

Trevino would have loved to see a final appearance by Nicklaus at the Masters. The last time was 2005 and, Trevino said, it wasn’t right.

“I begged him to go back,” Trevino said. “I begged him to go back one more year and so did Barbara, but he didn’t. For the greatest player who won that tournament six times, he finishes on 9. You can’t do that. You are supposed to yank him out there and say, ‘You are going off the front.’

“I don’t give a damn if you are playing by yourself. You are going to finish on 18. You are going to take that walk. He never had a shot to take that walk. I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely dumbfounded. He never got a chance to come up 18.”

Trevino remembers the oversized MacGregor Response putter used by Nicklaus in the ’86 victory.

“I looked like a sailboat,” Trevino said. “It was made out of aluminum. That thing was light. It was big. Hell, my first car wasn’t that big. He could putt with it, too. He could putt with anything. Jack, the way he stroked, his mannerisms of putting, he could put with a broom. It didn’t make any difference what he putted with.”

Nicklaus (18), Watson (8) and Trevino (6) won 32 professional majors between them. On the Champions Tour, they have combined for 17 more — Nicklaus with eight, Watson five and Trevino four.

Watson started the final round of the 1986 Masters with a 212 total, two shots better than Nicklaus and was playing in the group just behind.

“I was right there,” Watson said. “I was both watching and listening.”

Watson had so many encounters with Nicklaus over the years that he could anticipate what Nicklaus was thinking, what he would do and how he would do it. Nicklaus had a habit of identifying a score he needed to win.

“He would say, ‘This is my goal to shoot 32 on the back nine,’” Watson said. “‘If I can shoot 32 on the back nine, I would win the tournament.’ I always played it one hole at a time. I never look ahead, and I never looked behind. I looked present tense. Jack would say ‘this is what I have to do.’”

“The electricity, you could feel in the air. The air was tense. It was very tense.”

–Tom Watson

Nicklaus shot a final-round 65 (with a 30 on the back nine) for a 279 total, 9-under, to win by 1 shot over Tom Kite and Greg Norman. Watson shot a Sunday 71 and finished tied for sixth, 4 shots behind Nicklaus. It was the 18th, and last professional major victory for Nicklaus.

Watson, arms folded and watching, was standing on the 15th hole at Augusta National when Nicklaus made his dramatic final round eagle there. What was Watson thinking as Nicklaus made the charge?

“I was worrying about my own shot,” Watson said. “I’ve seen that happen enough times with Jack. It didn’t surprise me. Obviously I knew how excited everybody was about it. By the electricity, you could feel in the air. The air was tense. It was very tense.

“I wasn’t surprised or shocked. Anything but shocked. Because Jack knew the golf course better than anybody and he still had the ability to play. He did say one thing, which I thought was very poignant, he said, ‘This is a young man’s golf course.’ Meaning that you had to putt well.

But I think that maybe he was saying that just kind of tongue-in-cheek because he knew he could still win there. He knew if everything went right, he could win there.

“I think if you asked him, he thought of a score he had to shoot on the back nine, and I think he shot that score and he bettered it by one, and that was typical Jack.”

For Watson, Nicklaus’s age was insignificant.

“The bottom line is that after winning there five times, he knew the golf course and he knew how to play it to win,” Watson said. “So it didn’t make any difference whether he was 46 years old or 66 years old, he still understood how to win there. And he still had the tools to do it.”

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Something that only happens on the Champions Tour these days

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Gil Morgan

Gil Morgan

It only happens on the Champions Tour these days — a professional golfer equaling, or bettering his age, and it happened three times (almost four) during the week of the 2011 Toshiba Classic.

Lee Trevino, 71, did it twice at Newport Beach CC, shooting a 1-under 70 in the opening round and 71 on the final day. Gil Morgan, 64, achieved the feat for the first time in his career when he shot a 7-under 64 on Saturday.

Dave Stockton, 69, came close when he shot 70 on Friday.

In 2010, a total of three players equaled or bettered their age, with Gary Player doing it twice. Player was 74 when he shot 74 at the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and just a few weeks later he posted 72 at The ACE Group Classic. Tom Wargo shot 65 at age 67 to share the first-round lead at the inaugural Montreal Championship and Hale Irwin fired 65 to match his age at the AT&T Championship later in the year.

Since the turn of the century, the youngest Tour player to shoot his age is Walter Morgan, who shot 60 at age 61 in the second round of the Champions Tour’s 2002 AT&T Canada Senior Open Championship, while the oldest is Jack Fleck, who shot 81 to match his age in the opening round of the 2003 Senior British Open.

The legendary Sam Snead holds the record for the youngest player to shoot or better his age on the PGA TOUR. In the 1979 Quad Cities Open, Snead matched his age with a 3-under 67 in the second round and closed with 66 on the final day.

Since 2000, the most strokes a player has shot below his age is five — Orville Moody posted a 64 at age 69 during round two of the 2003 Long Island Classic and Jimmy Powell shot 67 at age 72 in the final round of the 2007 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

Jerry Barber holds the record on the Champions Tour for the most strokes below his age. In 1994, he fired a 69 in the Kroger Senior Classic when he was 78.

Below is a list of 120 occurrences of a player shooting at or below his age since 2000.

Shooting Their Age
2011
Lee Trevino 71 (12/1/39) 70 Toshiba Classic (first round)
Gil Morgan 64 (9/25/46) 64 Toshiba Classic (second round)
Lee Trevino 71 (12/1/39) 71 Toshiba Classic (third round)
2010
Gary Player 74 (11/1/35) 74 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (second round)
Gary Player 74 (11/1/35 72 The ACE Group Classic (third round)
Tom Wargo 67 (9/16/42) 65 Montreal Championship (first round)
Hale Irwin 65 (6/3/45) 65 AT&T Championship (first round)
2009
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 70 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (first round)
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 71 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (second round)
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 71 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (third round)
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 73 Allianz Championship (first round)
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 72 Toshiba Classic (second round)
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 71 Toshiba Classic (third round)
Gary Player 73 (11/1/35) 72 Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach (second round)
Jim Dent 69 (5/9/39) 68 Allianz Championship (third round)
Jim Colbert 67 (3/9/41) 66 Toshiba Classic (first round)
Bob Charles 72 (3/15/36) 70 Senior British Open (first round)
2008
Gary Player 72 (11/1/35) 70 The ACE Group Classic (second round)
Gary Player 72 (11/1/35) 72 Toshiba Classic (second round)
Gary Player 72 (11/1/35) 71 Toshiba Classic (thirdround)
Gary Player 72 (11/1/35) 72 Bank of America Championship (second round)
Bob Charles 72 (3/15/36) 71 Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am (second round)
Bob Charles 72 (3/15/36) 68 Regions Charity Classic (first round)
Jim Dent 69 (5/9/39) 69 Regions Charity Classic (second round)
Jim Dent 69 (5/9/39) 69 Regions Charity Classic (third round)
Jimmy Powell 73 (1/17/35) 72 Dicks Sporting Goods Open (firstround)
Dave Stockton 66 (11/2/41) 66 AT&T Championship (first round)
2007
Gary Player 71 (11/1/35) 69 MasterCard Championship at Hualalai (first round)
Gary Player 71 (11/1/35) 69 MasterCard Championship at Hualalai (second round)
Gary Player 71 (11/1/35) 71 Turtle Bay Championship (second round)
Gary Player 71 (11/1/35) 71 Allianz Championship (second round)
Gary Player 71 (11/1/35) 71 The ACE Group Classic (second round)
Gary Player 71 (11/1/35) 70 The Boeing Championship at Sandestin (second round)
Dave Stockton 65 (11/2/41) 65 Toshiba Classic (first round)
Dave Stockton 65 (11/2/41) 65 AT&T Championship (second round)
Dale Douglass 71 (3/5/36) 70 AT&T Champions Classic (first round)
Jim Dent 68 (5/9/39) 67 Regions Charity Classic (second round)
Bob Charles 71 (3/15/36) 70 The Boeing Championship at Sandestin (first round)
Bob Charles 71 (3/15/36) 68 The Boeing Championship at Sandestin (third round)
Bob Charles 71 (3/15/36) 71 Senior British Open (first round)
Jimmy Powell 72 (1/17/35) 71 The Principal Charity Classic (third round)
Jimmy Powell 72 (1/17/35) 71 Commerce Bank Championship (second round)
Jimmy Powell 72 (1/17/35) 72 Commerce Bank Championship (third round)
Jimmy Powell 72 (1/17/35) 67 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open (third round)
2006
Raymond Floyd 63 (9/4/42) 63 The Boeing Championship at Sandestin (third round)
Bob Charles 70 (3/14/36) 70 U.S. Senior Open (fourth round)
Gary Player 70 (11/1/35) 69 Senior British Open (first round)
Gary Player 70 (11/1/35) 69 Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach (first round)
Gary Player 70 (11/1/35) 70 AT&T Championship (first round)
Lee Trevino 66 (12/1/39) 66 AT&T Championship (second round)
2005
Gary Player 69 (11/1/35) 69 Turtle Bay Championship (first round)
Gary Player 69 (11/1/35) 69 Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach (second round)
Gary Player 69 (11/1/35) 68 Bank of America Championship (final round)
Gary Player 69 (11/1/35) 69 Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn (second round)
Dale Douglass 69 (3/5/35) 68 Blue Angels Classic (second round)
Dale Douglass 69 (3/5/35) 69 Blue Angels Classic (first round)
Dale Douglass 69 (3/5/35) 69 Blue Angels Classic (third round)
Dale Douglass 69 (3/5/36) 66 Commerce Bank Championship (second round)
Jim Albus 64 (6/18/40) 64 Blue Angels Classic (third round)
Bob Charles 69 (3/14/36) 69 Constellation Energy Classic (first round)
2004
Gary Player 68 (11/1/35) 68 MasterCard Championship (third round)
Gary Player 68 (11/1/35) 66 Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am (third round)
Dale Douglass 68 (3/5/36) 66 Toshiba Senior Classic (third round)
Miller Barber 73 (3/31/31) 72 FedEx Kinko’s Classic (third round)
Miller Barber 73 (3/31/31) 73 Allianz Championship (third round)
Jimmy Powell 69 (1/17/35) 69 Farmers Charity Classic (third round)
Don January 74 (11/20/29) 72 The First Tee At Pebble Beach (first round)
Don January 74 (11/20/29) 74 The First Tee At Pebble Beach (second round)
Bob Charles 68 (3/14/36) 66 Bank of America Championship (second round)
Bob Charles 68 (3/14/36) 68 SBC Championship (third round)
2003
Arnold Palmer 73 (9/10/29) 73 MasterCard Championship (first round)
Arnold Palmer 73 (9/10/29) 73 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (first round)
Arnold Palmer 74 (9/10/29) 73 SBC Championship (first round)
Arnold Palmer 74 (9/10/29) 74 SBC Championship (third round)
Gary Player 67 (11/1/35) 67 MasterCard Championship (second round)
Miller Barber 72 (3/31/31) 71 Bruno’s Memorial Classic (first round)
Miller Barber 72 (3/31/31) 72 Bruno’s Memorial Classic (second round)
Miller Barber 72 (3/31/31) 72 Farmers Charity Classic (second round)
Miller Barber 72 (3/31/31) 72 Greater Hickory Classic (second round)
Bob Charles 67 (3/14/36) 65 Bruno’s Memorial Classic (second round)
Bob Charles 67 (3/14/36) 65 FleetBoston Classic (third round)
Bob Charles 67 (3/14/36) 67 SAS Championship (second round)
Gene Littler 72 (7/21/30) 71 Music City Championship (third round)
Jack Fleck 81 (11/8/21) 81 Senior British Open (first round)
Jim Colbert 62 (3/9/41) 62 Senior British Open (second round)
Orville Moody 69 (12/9/33) 64 Long Island Classic (second round)
2002
Harold Henning 67 (10/3/34) 67 The ACE Group Classic (second round)
Dale Douglass 66 (3/5/36) 63 Emerald Coast Classic (second round)
Dale Douglass 66 (3/5/36) 66 Allianz Championship (second round)
Jack Fleck 80 (11/8/21) 77 Senior PGA Championship (first round)
Miller Barber 71 (3/31/31) 67 BellSouth Sr. Classic at Opryland (first round)
Walter Morgan 61 (5/31/41) 60 AT&T Canada Senior Open (second round)
Gene Littler 72 (7/21/30) 69 FleetBoston Classic (second round)
Gene Littler 72 (7/21/30) 71 BellSouth Sr. Classic at Opryland (first round)
Jimmy Powell 67 (1/17/35) 66 Lightpath Long Island Classic (third round)
Arnold Palmer 73 (9/10/29) 73 Napa Valley Championship (third round)
2001
Arnold Palmer 71 (9/10/29) 71 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (fourth round)*
Arnold Palmer 71 (9/10/29) 71 Senior PGA Championship (first round)
Gene Littler 70 (7/21/30) 67 Bruno’s Memorial Classic (first round)
Gene Littler 71 (7/21/30) 69 Gold Rush Classic (first round)
Bob Charles 65 (3/14/36) 64 Enterprise Rent-A-Car Match Play Championship (second round)
Jimmy Powell 66 (1/17/35) 66 The Instinet Classic (first round)
Miller Barber 70 (3/31/31) 68 Novell Utah Showdown (second round)
Al Balding 77 (4/29/24) 72 AT&T Canada Senior Open (fourth round)
*On PGA TOUR
2000
Jim Ferree 68 (6/10/31) 68 Bruno’s Memorial Classic (third round)
Jim Ferree 68 (6/10/31) 67 The Instinet Classic (first round)
Miller Barber 69 (3/31/31) 68 BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland (first round)
Miller Barber 69 (3/31/31) 69 The Instinet Classic (first round)
Miller Barber 69 (3/31/31) 69 Coldwell Banker Burnet Classic (first round)
Gary Player 64 (11/1/35) 64 BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland (first round)
Joe Jimenez 74 (6/10/26) 73 SBC Championship (first round)
Joe Jimenez 74 (6/10/26) 74 SBC Championship (second round)
Joe Jimenez 74 (6/10/26) 72 SBC Championship (third round)
Al Balding 76 (4/29/24) 74 AT&T Canada Senior Open Championship (third round)
Arnold Palmer 70 (9/10/29) 70 Novell Utah Showdown (third round)
Arnold Palmer 70 (9/10/29) 69 FleetBoston Classic (second round)
Arnold Palmer 71 (9/10/29) 71 Vantage Championship (third round)
Gene Littler 70 (7/21/30) 69 Kroger Senior Classic (third round)
Gene Littler 70 (7/21/30) 69 Gold Rush Classic (second round)

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How Round 3 went for Mark Wiebe

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Mark Wiebe

Mark Wiebe

DAVE SENKO: Mark, another 65 today. Right now you are 12 under and two back starting tomorrow. Maybe just give us a quick synopsis of your day and we will get your 6 birdies and bogey.

MARK WIEBE: Seven birdies, but who’s counting? Well, the weather is fantastic. That helps a lot. The golf course is in good shape. The greens are poa annua. I grew up on poa annua greens, and they get a little bit bumpy in the afternoons. The putting is tough. So far, I have been able to figure it out and get lucky here and there. Nice crowds, good golf. I’m playing nice.

DAVE SENKO: Birdies, start at No. 1, shot sequence.

MARK WIEBE: Yes, let me see. I hit a wedge from about 120 or so yards on 1 to probably about, I’m going to guess, about 15 feet ish. Probably my best putt of the day to tell you the truth. It rolled real nice. It’s a great way to get started and get under par. So it was a good beginning.

The next birdie was 7, was a little revenge. I doubled that hole yesterday. I was 7 under coming into that hole. That was my 16th hole, and made a double, a sloppy double bogey and birdied 8 yesterday.

So today it was on my mind, believe me. I hit a nice drive, and I hit a lob wedge from 90 yards. And I got a good hop up onto the green and I had about, I’m going to say about, a four- or five-foot downhill left to right one that you just breathe on and real happy when I made that. That’s a treacherous green on this golf course. If you have been out there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s brutal.

Then I had a very pleasant surprise on No. 8. I probably had one of my best shots today. I hit a 4 iron, a nice high draw, thought it was going to be really good, went all the way off the green. I was putting, just on the fringe. That putt had to be 35, 40 feet, right in that range, with about six feet of break.

So, obviously, I was thinking about getting it close and tapping in for par and it went in. Awesome surprise. But you never know, right?

(No.) 11, I hit a driver off the tee and hit a lob wedge from about 61 yards. It’s pretty funny, my caddy and I joked about that because when I hit it, I hit it perfect and I heard someone go, ‘Get down, get down,’ and I looked at him and I said, ‘Oh, no, that’s going to be good.’ It was about three feet, I guess. Exactly pin high.

Bogey (No.) 12 from middle of the fairway. Got a little lazy with a pitching wedge and hit the tree on the right, and it went behind the trees on the left. So it went all the way across the fairway.

A bad break but a bad shot. The ball could have just dropped down, and I could have maybe got it up and down.

It was kind of a bad break, I guess. But I made a great two putt for a bogey there.

(No.) 14 was great. I hit a great drive there, just an awesome drive. That hole is tough. Actually, our whole group hit sensational drives there.

I hit a pitching wedge from 115 to about ten feet. You know what? I kind of had a great vibe on that putt. It was straight, a little bit uphill. It was one of the easier ones, I guess I had today, and made that.

The next hole, par 5, I hit a real nice drive there, and hit a 3 iron in, and didn’t hit it very well, to tell you the truth, but on the front fringe and had to putt up the hill, and that putt was probably 45, 50 feet and putted that up to probably four feet there and had a tricky little right to left putt and made that for birdie.

(No.) 18, I had a 3 wood in the left bunker. I was not going to go right. I’ve played here a few times. When the pin is front right, you can’t go right really, although Brad Bryant did it, and made birdie. He is better at pitching I guess.

I hit it in the left bunker. I didn’t have a super hard bunker shot, but had a real nice shot to probably 5 or 6 feet, I guess, and made that to cap my day.

DAVE SENKO: So on 18 again, your shot sequence again was?

MARK WIEBE: 3 wood in the left bunker, which was good. The pin was on the right. I used the hill and hit my bunker shot out to about five or six feet.

DAVE SENKO: Questions?

Q. You were in this room a year ago, you were under the weather, you weren’t feeling well, you are back here now playing well. Is this a course you come to looking to win? Is this one of your favorite tracks out here?

MARK WIEBE: It’s a great tournament. You never know when you go into a tournament. You never know. You think maybe you’re ready. But to tell you the truth, I’ve had great tournaments when I don’t think I’ve been close to ready and in places I never thought I would play well.

I love playing on the West Coast. I grew up in Escondido. We don’t get to play west very much. So it’s really nice to come west. I had family that came in. Some friends came in. The sun is shining, the weather is great.

Q. You mentioned growing up on courses with poa annua. Are you referring to Torrey?

MARK WIEBE: I never really played Torrey other than just a couple of tournaments. And then Andy Williams. You are not old enough to know what that is. It’s the San Diego tournament. Palma Valley was poa annua. There was a lot of courses. I played Junior Golf for six or seven years as a kid. A lot of the courses were either bent or poa annua. That was it.

Bermuda, we picked that. Now we play golf on it when we go to Florida. I know the greens. I don’t mean that in a way that I know I’m going to make everything. I just know that they’re tough.

So you have a mindset many could go into a golf course like this. This is an old traditional style golf course with the greens perched up, and they are poa annua, and they are firm, and they are just tough.

I think we all come in with a mindset. These greens, you got to pay attention. Just don’t have simple putts very often.

I had one today on the 14th hole. That was my only putt today that I really felt comfortable on. I think I can make the rest of them. You are trying to figure out how to die it and let it roll out. You are busy concentrating. I’m ready for a cocktail, actually, just about now.

Q. What family was here today? How do you feel about going up against Nick Price tomorrow?

MARK WIEBE: Well, to answer that question first, Nick is a great guy and a great player, and has been for as long as I’ve been around. He is a great player. I’m excited to play with him. I have no idea what’s in store for us tomorrow. I’m going to do my best and hopefully I can catch him. Whatever. I’m just happy to be in this position. And I am going to enjoy playing with Nick. I played with Nick in Naples the last day and birdied everything coming in. I finished second or third in the tournament. I’m excited to play with Nick.

Family came in, my son came in yesterday, and my wife is here first of all. She came in Tuesday. My son was here yesterday. And then my oldest daughter flew in this morning from Tulsa. My youngest daughter goes to Loyola Marymount as a freshman, and she came in yesterday after her class, so she was here last night.

Then I have friends that came in from Denver and some friends that live around here that came in. I can tell you, Naples, or in Florida usually, I usually don’t have friends and family there because I’m from this side. So I don’t know many people out in Florida.

Q. What are their names?

MARK WIEBE: My kids — wife’s name is Cathy with a C — Taylor, Collier and Gunner was here yesterday. He is getting ready for his tournament. He goes to the University of San Diego. They plays Monday and Tuesday, which we are going right down to after this tomorrow.

Q. Are you still working with him a lot, a little bit?

MARK WIEBE: Yes. Until we can find somebody that can help him. He is my teacher so I have to keep him close. He helps me. He watched me yesterday. We went right to the range. I did not want to hit balls yesterday. And he made me hit balls. He said you need to get your hand up and quit taking so much time on a couple of these putts, is my advice from Gunner yesterday.

Q. Did you use that today?

MARK WIEBE: Yes, I tried to keep my pace consistent. Again, the greens are tough. It’s hard. You don’t want to take too long. We were in position, so I felt good about that. You still don’t want to take too long on the greens. I have a tendency to do that anyway, and when we get on these, they really firmed up.

I got here, and I played in the Pro Am Monday. I played nine holes and the practice round Tuesday. I played in the Pro Am Wednesday, the Pro Am Thursday, so I tried to study, I guess, so to speak. Try not to take too long, but there is just some of the putts you have, you just have to pay attention.

Q. Mark, how many times have you played this course over your life?

MARK WIEBE: Well, I’ve never played any junior tournaments here. I never played any amateur tournaments here. So the first time was 2008, when I turned 50 at the end of 2007. My first trip up here was in 2008 and love it. It’s great.

DAVE SENKO: Thank you.

MARK WIEBE: Thank you, guys.

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A rare interview with Lee Travino

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Lee Travino

Lee Travino

DAVE SENKO: Lee, welcome, you have visited several times, but you had a chance to play the course this morning

 

LEE TREVINO: I never seen it better. I have never seen it better. You had a lot of rain, maybe?

It is in the best condition I have ever seen it. The scores are going to be extremely low, I think, which will be good. That’s what people like. It is immaculate.

The fairways are the best I’ve ever seen, the greens. Just everything about it. And I don’t have to tell you about the layout. This is one of the finest golf courses I’ve ever played. For a member, a guy, I guarantee you, there will never be anybody drop out of this club. It will be nuts. They have to die.

If the flag is half mast, that’s the only way he dropped out.

The family is sad, but the guy on the waiting list is happy as hell. Every time I travel, the flag is half mast. Who died? Who is coming in? That guy is jumping up and down.

It’s beautiful. I love it. It’s the only one I play in. I play in the Legends, but I like playing here.

Q. That’s why you are here?

LEE TREVINO: I just like this course. I don’t have to play. I don’t play anyplace else. This place is special. Plus I like to come out every once in a while to see the guys, you know what I’m saying. It’s like family. So I came out to see them. A lot of new guys out. Ian Baker Finch is starting this week for the first time. I love seeing them. I love seeing the guys.

Q. Lee, your 71, par is 71, is that a good goal?

LEE TREVINO: I hope I’m close when I play. I don’t know if I can break it or not. I have a chance to because this course is not the longest course in the world. You know what I’m saying? You still got to make pars and birdies. I shout about that today. How many birdies did I have? I had four birdies. That’s good. If I can get four birdies a day I got a shot to break my age, yes.

Q. You’re a quick golfer, do you miss playing the PGA TOUR, especially seeing now they are taking like five hours and 20 minutes on the weekend? Do you miss that?

LEE TREVINO: They just won’t do anything about that, you know. If you gave a 2 shot penalty instead of $100 fine, they would speed up. You got to put the two shots on them. And they wouldn’t do them. That two shots could cost four or $500 thousand.

If you are in second place, and you get a 2 shot penalty for slow play and you end up 5th that kid, I was watching the AT&T at Pebble Beach. I don’t remember who it was, did he double bogey? He double bogeyed 18. Marino. He was in second place. He ended up 5th.

And I looked it up. I showed it to my son. I said, this is what you got to do. He went crazy. He says, he hit a hell of a shot. He pulled the 5 iron a little bit and it went in the water. It cost him 432,000 that double bogey.

If he pars the hole he can’t win, understand? But he could finish second by himself. It cost him 432,000, you see?

Slow play, the only way that you can fix slow play is you got to be consistent.

When I went out on TOUR, when I went years ago, they gave you two shots automatic. Nicklaus got two shots right away, 1960 up at Portland. Joe Black gave it to him. I never forget it. He was slow playing. He said you got 2. He won it anyway. He still won. But he got 2. You got to do the two shots. They give you a fine. These guys are making $10 million a year. What the hell is a fine? You understand? I don’t care if it’s a $10,000 fine, that’s not anything.

Q. But they put the group on the clock and it usually is one guy?

LEE TREVINO: They know who it is. Listen to me. These guys are professionals. Our officials are professionals. They know exactly who is playing slow. They know who it is. You don’t have to put the 3 some on the clock, you can go to the individual.

Every time I got you know how fast I am? And I get in a fast group, they would come to me and say listen, you are out of position. Come to me. I said go tell that SOB that slow plays in the group. But they would tell me. I’m a fast player. You got to go to two shots.

Our officials are professionals. Understand? Now whether they can do this or not, you have to understand that this TOUR is run by the board, the board of professional golfers. They are the ones that have to vote on this, to my knowledge. To my knowledge they would have to vote on that. And they are not going to.

And this is when the Commissioner should take over, if you want to go faster. You understand?

if you want to go faster, the commissioner says, call the officials up, we are going to start the two stroke penalty stuff and just do it.

I guarantee you, after you give a couple of them, these guys will be running up No. 1. They will hit their driver. They will be jogging out there. They will be wearing Fred Couples shoes, those Echos, where you could run and everything.

You got to go to the 2 shot. But our officials are professionals, all you have to do is tell them. They can’t do it. They tried. They are out there. They are clocking everybody. They are working their buns off. You see them out there all the time. Their hands are tied to give the guy a 2 shot, you know. They give them $100 fine, $200 fine. It’s crazy.

That was like who was the crazy one that just died? Tommy Bolt. When you practice, you could only hit one ball on the green. Tommy would hit two or three, and one of the officials came up to him and said, Tommy, you can’t do that. Why not? It’s a $25.00 fine if you hit more than one ball on the green. He handed him $200, and he said, keep the change, I’m going to hit three more. That’s the way it is. That’s how crazy it is with an itty bitty fine like that.

Q. Fred Couples has been bothered by back problems a lot of years?

LEE TREVINO: Forever.

Q. Your problems started when you got hit by lightning?

LEE TREVINO: It ripped my back out. I had a disk removed. Then I had another problem with a nerve hitting a bone. I had a rhizotomy, which burns the nerves and I was okay.

Then I reinjured it in ’03, and I couldn’t do anything. I lost all of the compression of the disk in 3, 4. The nerve was actually trapped. And they found this apparatus called X Stop, it wasn’t legal in this country. I went to Germany, to Cologne to have it done.

It’s a little roller with wings, and it goes into your back. It’s not attached to anything. It goings in between the little bones and it lifts up the vertebrae to where you get your space back.

I have 2 of them in. I’ve never had a spasm or my back hurt since ’04. I had them put in in May of ’04. I lift weights. I do everything. I can’t run. They don’t want me pounding.

But it was a miracle. This thing. It’s called an X Stop. People that are interested in this, it’s for spinal stenosis is what it is. When people start going down and they start losing compression in the back. The reason you see people leaning over all the time, they have no room, no space. When you they lean forward it opens it which relieves the pressure. As they try to straighten up, it closes and this is what pinches the nerve.

But they can google this by going X Stop spacer.com. Very simple. They will tell you. Not everybody is a candidate for it. Bone density has a lot to do with it.

Q. Do you think all of your back problems were from lightening that day or hitting balls?

LEE TREVINO: Probably hitting balls and the lightening and stuff. It probably was. I ruptured the disk right after I got hit by lightning. I ruptured it picking up a pot. It wasn’t that it just ruptured. I remember picking up a flower pot over in the corner and my wife wanted me to move it. So I go over and pick the damn thing up and I remember when I popped it. I remember when I did it.

I did the one in the neck, too. The 7 in the neck, I have a plate behind my throat, I have a small plate in there with 6 screws in it in my neck. I still have pretty good motion.

But I ruptured that one hitting balls. It popped also. I heard it, boom. And they went in through here and put a plate in behind my throat.

I’m a bionic man. I told my wife I was going to be cremated. I said, when I die and they bring you the ashes you put your hand in the urn, if you don’t get 2 rollers and a plate, god damn, they are not mine. That’s what I told her. You reach in those ashes, and if there is not 2 X Stop rollers in there and a plate with 6 screws, those are not my ashes. That’s what I told her.

Q. Lee, is the game still fun for you?

LEE TREVINO: I play every day. I don’t miss a day. If it’s raining, I don’t play, I go in the shop and beat up on the clubs. I’m always doing something with them.

I got a driver right now I’m knocking the hell out of. I need to fix it, but I’m hitting it so good if I fix it it might mess it up. First of all, I had a rattle in the shed. So I took my knife out of the bag, a Mexican always had a knife in his bag, I took this knife out and I cut the top off the grip, so I can get the hole in there. But I cut too much. The shaft is sticking up. The sharp is hitting me.

And then the shaft, I put a brass weight in the shaft, but I don’t guess I glued it good enough. It came out in the driver and it’s rattling in the driver.

If I hit it a certain way it will lock up in there. I was going to go over here to the trailer and take the shaft out and put another grip on, but it might mess it up.

These drivers are very particular. You change a little weight here, and a little weight there, it changes the kick in the shaft.

That’s the hardest thing in the world to find is a driver that will react the way you want it to.

You can have 12 shafts in that driver, and they all go different. And you got to find the right one, the right combination.

I’ve got that in this one. I’m not messing with it. It’s ugly.

The great thing about it, if I lose it, or drop it in the driveway, nobody will pick it up, they will throw it on the side.

It happened to me with a wedge one time. I had a rusty Helen Hicks in Akron, Ohio, and I put it at the edge of the car and I forgot about it, and I drove away and it fell on the park, the driveway there.

Somebody picked it up and threw it up against the building. Nicklaus walked out to go to the golf course, and he saw that wedge there, I swear to God, and he looks at it, and he says, I think this is Lee’s wedge. He came out. I’m on the practice tee, and he’s got it in his hand, the old Helen Hicks.

He said, is this your wedge? I said, where did you find that wedge? It was up against the building at the hotel. Somebody picked it up and threw it over there, this old rusty thing. It had the brown shaft in it. It was made in 1938. It had dimples in the face, no lines. That’s before they started making lines in the clubs.

Q. Speaking of Jack, I know you don’t watch every Masters.

LEE TREVINO: I watch them all.

Q. This is the anniversary of ’86. Where were you watching that ? Do you remember where you were?

LEE TREVINO: Yes, and I am still pissed off about it. Let me tell you why. I bet you never even thought about it. How did the people at Augusta, Georgia, know that it was Jack Nicklaus‘s last tournament and he finished on 9.

Q. No, ’86.

LEE TREVINO: Oh, when he won. We got completely inebriated at the Atlanta airport. We left Augusta to the airport. No, I drove. What the hell? I’m first off.

So when I finished, Jack hadn’t teed off. My wife and I are driving to the airport. Jack is on 14. And then he eagles 15. And the airline, there was a bar across from the gate in Atlanta, and I am drinking double scotches. I mean I hit a wall when I went in that airport. And he won that tournament. Hold the plane, hold the plane. We are screaming at this guy to hold the plane. Everybody is watching. The airport is going nuts. My wife and I are there and I’m hitting it hard, I’m hitting it hard, come on, Jack. I’m hitting it hard.

What I was talking about, what a mistake Augusta made there. God, all mighty. I beg him to go back. I begged him to go back one more year and so did Barbara but he didn’t. For the greatest player that won that tournament six times, Augusta, he finishes on 9.

You can’t do that. You are supposed to yank his ass out there and say, you are going off the front. I don’t give a damn if you are playing by yourself. You are going to finish on 18. You are going to take that walk. He never had a shot to take that walk. I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely dumb founded.

I said, what in the hell are they thinking about?. He never got a chance to come up 18. He came up 9.

Those people are not going to leave 18 to watch him walk 9. It was too bad.

’86, when he won that tournament, he had a putter that looked like a sailboat. That thing looked like a sailboat. It was made out of aluminum. That thing was light, too. It was big. Hell, my first car wasn’t that big. He could putt with it, too. He could putt with anything. Jack, the way he stroked, his mannerisms of putting, he could put with a broom. It didn’t make any difference what he putted with.

Q. A couple of years ago you said Tiger would break Jack’s record, what are your thoughts on that now?

LEE TREVINO: He will be back. His game will be back. I think he is having some problems. Commercial wise. I don’t think he ever will comeback.

Game wise, once he gets his head screwed on straight and he gets rid of all of these guroons (phn) that are trying to teach him, he will be fine. He needs to look at his films from ’02, go back to the way he swung there. Or call Butch Harmon, get back with him. Butch is probably the best out there. I don’t know if Butch will take him back. That’s the other thing. I think he will do fine.

But Lanny Wadkins made a statement the other day, we did a press conference to kick off the Salesmanship luncheon for the Dallas tournament, and that question was asked about Tiger and Jack Nicklaus’s record.

I said, yes, I think he will do it. He needs 5 more.

Lanny says, I think it’s 50/50 as far as I am concerned. I will tell you why. He said, when Jack won his major championships, he had five or six guns after him.

He says, Tiger won those first 14, and he didn’t have a lot of guns on top of him.

And Lanny said now, the way the world TOUR is, and the first 4, number 1 2, 3, 4, ranking, players are from Europe, he said I think it’s going to be harder for him to win the next 5 than it was the first 14.

And I thought about that for a minute. You know what? He may have something there. It may be tougher for him to win the next five.

So I don’t know. It’s up in the air. These players are coming out now with Tiger, and they can play. They can really play.

I never thought that I would see the day when I would see the first 4 players World Ranking not Americans. I never thought I would see that.

Q. You taught yourself to play; he has changed his swing dramatically three times, is that hard to believe?

LEE TREVINO: Yes, especially when you are winning everything. You are winning 6 tournaments in a row, and then you are holding all 4 trophies at one time, and then you are change your swing. What the hell for? Who are you trying to beat yourself? He succeeded.

He beat himself. I don’t know how you do that.

He has such a passion. You have to understand Tiger is very dedicated to the game. He has a passion for it.

I had the same thing, but I never changed my swing. My passion was getting a lot of confidence. My confidence came from out of ground. The more I practiced, the more confidence I got.

And Tiger maybe gets bothered practicing the same way all the time, wants to try something else. He has just tried too many things.

I would love to see him go back to the original and just pound balls. Do you remember how he played? He won 6 in a row. How the hell do you win six in a row of anything?

Q. A couple of times?

LEE TREVINO: Yes. He won 6 in a row. And then he held all of the trophies and then he changes. And then he is getting gurus (phn) that’s never won nothing. You know what I’m talking about?

At least Harmon, he played The TOUR. His dad was a hell of a teacher, Claude Harmon. Butch knows his stuff. He knows his stuff. Randy Smith in Dallas knows his stuff. That’s where my son goes. Hell, I ain’t teaching my son. You crazy? Outside in, all of that. No. Hell no, I’m not teaching him that.

Q. Wait a second, you are talking about your son, you’re a great player, and you are talking about these Europeans, who are pretty diverse, interesting guys, that’s what making them good players, how do you deal with that? You are well aware that the things that make you great is dealing with adversity and having your own swing. It’s a struggle for you to say, I use to hit with a coke bottle.

LEE TREVINO: Yes, we played courses like this, I would never be able to play the courses they are playing now with my golf swing. I would have had to change it. I couldn’t have go in there with low fades. Hell, I couldn’t reach any of the par 4′s. You know what I’m saying? No way.

I would be hitting drivers to par 3s they are playing. They’re playing 250 par 3s, are you kidding me? I wouldn’t be able to play with this thing. I did the best I could do with what I had, but I was lucky that I came along when the golf courses averaged 6800, 6900 like this one year.

Naturally, the ball didn’t go as far, or I didn’t have the clubs. I hit the ball farther now than I did when I was 30. But that’s the equipment. So is everybody else hitting it long.

But by the equipment being the way that it is it still gives me a chance the score a little on a course like this.

When you take me to Pelican Hill over there and put me on the back tees I’d shoot a smooth running 83 at you. And I won’t miss a fairway. I won’t lose a ball. It’s just too long for me.

Q. What do you miss most about The TOUR, competition or the camaraderie?

LEE TREVINO: Camaraderie. Competition is over when I played when I was 63, 64. I knew I couldn’t compete anymore. You lose the desire. You are the only one that knows when you lose it? It’s when you get in the car, and you are driving to the golf course, and you want to turn around and go home.

Or you go to the golf course, and you take out your bag and your practice balls, and you hit 25 golf balls, and you say, well, that’s enough. Then you put your clubs back in the car and you go home. You spend less time practicing than you do driving back and forth to the house. That’s when you know you lost your desire. It’s not there anymore.

If you don’t have a passion and a desire you won’t concentrate on what you are trying to do. You got to have that. It’s instilled in you.

You got to lose it because eventually you are smart enough to realize that you come to grips with reality that you can’t compete anymore. And when you can’t compete anymore it’s time to just put it up. Just don’t play anymore. Play with your friends.

Because of what I’ve done in all of these years with being crazy, people want to play golf with me. I do more for charity than probably anyone simply because people always want to play golf with me and will donate to something.

I built a kitchen Sunday. Sunday I played with two guys in Palm Springs at BIGHORN.

Yesterday I played with 3 guys at Pelican Hill. You know what they did for me? They built a kitchen at Delta Gamma, paid $25,000 to play for the sorority.

They came to me at the sorority when I was having a hamburger, coke and French fries, minding my own business in October. My daughter is vice president there. She goes to USC. She graduates this year. Mr. Trevino I need a new kitchen. I said, well, I didn’t bring a hammer. I can’t do anything for you. No, I got some people that are willing to put up the money if you play golf with them.

I said how much is the kitchen going to cost you? She said 25,000. I said I will play with them. And that’s what I did.

I flew down to Pam Springs, played golf with two guys from San Francisco. And I played with 3 guys yesterday from San Francisco. Their daughters go to school there. Delta Gamma. That’s who they beat up. And they put up $25,000 and this summer they’ll build it. I will never see the kitchen because my daughter graduates this year. I do all of that.

In Ft. Worth we have 560 Junior Golfers. I actually fund that whole program in the summer. How I got it? Last year, we were in Boca, who sponsors Boca? Allianz.

Allianz asked me to come and go to their business party and do a speech. The guy says what’s it going to cost me? I gave him a card and I said send $10,000 to the Ft. Worth Junior Golf Association. He said, you got it. Three days later we got the money. That’s what I do. Like doing it. I don’t want the money. What the hell am I going to do with it? I just give it away.

My wife giver me $20 a week whether I need it or not. And I can’t get in trouble with it. That’s all.

Q. No money games?

LEE TREVINO: You can’t find them anymore. Nobody plays for money anymore. Nobody plays for money. We played $5.00 yesterday, and I won all three ways and I never got paid. They never paid me. Nobody plays for money anymore. Those games are gone.

We used to play $100, $200. Nobody plays.

And the reason, handicaps. Everybody has a handicap. It’s not right. The handicap is not true. They turn in scores and get a handicap. You play, I’m a little bit better than you, what do you want? 2 a side? I will give you 2. You beat the guy. You give him 3. He might win, take it back to 2. That’s the way you do it.

Now they want handicaps. I’m a 10, when the guy is really a 5. You can’t beat him.

But if he is a true handicapper he can’t win. He only gets 80 percent out of the ten best scores. He doesn’t realize that. He think it’s 100%. You take a 5, 6 handicapper, that’s an 80 shooter. He thinks he is a 76, 75 shooter. When you turn in 20 scores they only take the best 10. Then you only get 80 percent of that.

So your handicap is not 100%. Me, in my club, I’m actually a plus 2. So now he is really dead because I get him on this side, and I got him on this side.

There is no more games. We play for nothing. I play with Herb Durham twice a week. He is 86. We play in a couple of hours. We have the record at Preston Trails. A guy by the name of Semens and I, we played an hour 38 minutes, 2 carts at 12 o’clock. This is how busy the course was. A day like this, noon we teed off, because they stopped serving lunch at 2, and we wanted to make sure we get the buffet. We teed off at 2. We finished at 1:38, and it was beautiful day like this. We teed off noon and didn’t go through a group. We were the only twosome on the golf course.

But Heb and I have the greatest record of all. Twice, he and I have gone through a onesome.

DAVE SENKO: I want to ask you one more question. Shoal Creek this year for The Tradition, what do you remember about that tournament?

LEE TREVINO: For the exception of this one, of this golf course, and how much these players love this course, this Shoal Creek is going to be special.

Now they can call The Tradition, in my opinion, a Major because it’s going to a golf course that deserves to be called a Major. This golf course is mean. Nicklaus was there, but Mr. Holt Thompson had everything to do with how he did this.

If you look, it has a lot of Hilton Head in it, for the exception that it’s longer. And it’s a new modern golf course that looks traditional.

In other words, it doesn’t have all of this fancy stuff. It’s just flat out. It doesn’t have all of these humps and bumps and stuff all over it. It just goes in there like this and there is the green. It’s mean. It’s a mean golf course. That tournament is going to be fantastic.

I’m going to bet you that they will have, on the weekend for that tournament, I will bet you they will have between 35 and 45,000 a day there. No question. There is nothing else to do in Alabama that time of year. Without Talladega and The Tide not playing, there ain’t nothing going on in Alabama. That’s the only venue.

If they’re not racing, or The Tide is not playing, it’s dead. Nothing else going on there. But it will be special.

Q. What do you remember about playing there?

LEE TREVINO: I drove the ball extremely well there. The rough was very, very deep. But I drove the ball so well there.

The only thing that I remember is that I rented a house away from Shoal Creek, and away from the City, and I had to drive through these bushes and the limbs were hitting the car window and stuff and this house was over on the lake, and I didn’t have any drapes or anything. My wife was scared. We hadn’t been married that long. We had a sword. We took a sword off the wall and slept with it.

We didn’t know what with an is going on. That’s what I remember most. It was like a chapter out of deliverance.

I mean that’s the only time my wife every got close to me in the car. She was right on top of me. The limbs were hitting the car window. I said holy shit, we got to go back to that house. She said, oh my God, what is it? I said, I don’t know. Every night.

But the thing that I remember the most is after I won. And the media got me, and I didn’t leave there until 10, and I was playing a Pro Am in Ft. Worth the next day at Diamond Oaks for charity, and a guy came and got me in a prop plane. It was raining when we finished. It started raining like hell. We got in that airplane. About 10:30, and he starts down the runway and that rain was hitting the windshield so hard, only a 4 passenger, the rain was hitting this thing so hard that you couldn’t see anything.

And we got about 50, 75 yards down the runway, the plane goes (indicating). And it stopped. He said, that damn fuel pump. I’ve had trouble with that fuel pump. Holy shit. He turned around and come back and I took off with him. That was the damndest thing I’ve ever done. It died. That damn full pump, I’ve been having trouble with that fuel pump. I should have got out there. I didn’t think about Rich Valley and those guys.

But anyway, I had a great week there. I wasn’t playing The TOUR regular. I was announcing for NBC playing that tournament. And I bought that putter in Holland, it was a Ping. I putted like hell with it there. As a matter of fact it’s in there. It’s there over the fireplace, you will see it. I had it put in a trophy case for Mr. Holt Thompson. They will enjoy it.

DAVE SENKO: Didn’t you have to borrow a hat there?

LEE TREVINO: I’m in the locker room, and I forgot my hat. My assistant, you remember, he was there with me. I said, go to the pro shop and buy me a hat. A little old man about 80. He had a hat on. He said, Mr. Trevino, use mine. It was beige. You could have deep fried a chicken with all of the oil on this hat.

Really. You could have deep fried something. This thing was oily. It was bad.

So I said, I’ll take the hat. So I wore that hat and I won it.

If you see the film it has the little Shoal Creek thing on it. Usually when I finish some kid will say, Mr. Trevino, let me have your hat. And I am signing something, and I will go like this. Shit, nobody asked me for this hat. So I’m still wearing the hat. Here it is 10at night, I walk out of the pressroom, I have had at least 8 beers, and I walk out of there and there is a little lady standing at the edge of the fence there.

And she says Mr. Trevino? I said, yes. Could I have your hat? I said no, ma’am, a gentleman gave me this hat, it was a good luck charm and I am keeping it.

She said, that’s why I asking you for the hat. That was my husband’s. So I gave her the hat back. But nobody wanted it. It had enough oil in it to fry a chicken. I will tell you, it was unbelievable. Thank you.

 

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Champion’s Tour players can still provide very competitive play on PGA Tour

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Couples and Cook

Couples and Cook

In his most recent start, Fred Couples demonstrated the power of synergy between a golfer and a golf course.

In his most recent start, John Cook proved he’s capable of competing at the highest levels.

Couples & Cook. Sounds like a law firm and that’s appropriate because they certainly made a strong case for the Champions Tour when they took busman’s holidays on the PGA TOUR.

For Couples, there are positive vibes every step of the way each time he returns to Riviera Country Club. At the PGA TOUR’s Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, Couples, 51, asked no quarter and gave none against the kids. For 3 and a half rounds of golf on one of his two favorite courses, he was exceptional. It was vintage Couples, a blast from the past.

With the Champions Tour in a mid-winter break, Cook, winner of the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, had no intention of letting his good form go to waste. He teed it up last week at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera-Maya Cancun and turned in a sterling third-place finish behind winner Johnson Wagner.

“I think the important thing to know is the guys in their 50s haven’t lost their competitiveness and they haven’t lost their game,” said Cook, 53.

“If our health holds, which at our age we’re all starting to have health issues, but other than that, there’s certain courses that we all can compete on still, whether it’s Fred, whether it’s me, Tom Lehman, it doesn’t matter. (Mark) Calcavecchia. It doesn’t matter. Certain courses we’ll be able to compete on because that’s what we’ve done. We know how to compete.”

Five of the six Champions Tour players at the Mayakoba Classic made the cut. In addition to Cook, they were Tom Lehman (T13), Tom Pernice Jr. (T19), Steve Lowery (T29) and Michael Allen (T56). Fred Funk, the 2007 Mayakoba Classic champion, missed the cut.

This week at the Honda Classic, the Champions Tour will be represented by Calcavecchia, Nick Price, Funk, Kenny Perry and Lee Rinker.

Next week, Couples and Cook return to action on the Champions Tour at the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club. Couples, the defending champion, connected instantly to Newport Beach CC.

Although Couples once lived in Newport Beach, he had never played the course until last year’s Toshiba Classic.

“The important thing to know is the guys in their 50s haven’t lost their competitiveness and they haven’t lost their game.”

–John Cook

“It was the first time I’d ever seen it,” Couples said. “I played two Pro-Ams, and I really, really liked it. I like the greens. I like the way the course is set up. I’m from Seattle, and we play a lot of courses like that, where they’re not extremely long. They’re kind of tricky, and they’re very, very good greens.

“When you go play courses, sometimes you like them, sometimes you don’t. And that one I just liked from the beginning.”

There was little about Toshiba Classic week that Couples didn’t enjoy last year.

“I had probably 50 very close friends that came out to watch, which was fun,” Couples said. “As you know, Newport is one of the top two or three for crowd attendance. I can tell you that it was very fun playing in front of that many people. I played with Mark O’Meara and Tom Watson. So it was a great pairing.”

This is a time of the year that Couples relishes. In addition to Riviera and Newport Beach, he’ll soon be back at Augusta National Golf Club to play in another Masters. Augusta National and Riviera are his favorites and his excellence in playing those courses is well-documented.

In 2010, Couples rode his string of impressive victories on the Champions Tour into the Masters — now only five weeks away — and put on another glistening display to tie for sixth on the course Bobby Jones built.

“I always shoot for the Masters,” said Couples, who won his green jacket in 1992.

It’s no mystery why that’s the case. Couples (1983-2007) shares the Masters record for most consecutive cuts made at 23 with Gary Player and Couples has 11 top 10 finishes in his career. He opened with 66 last year at Augusta National to take the first-round lead and closed with rounds of 68-70. The only blemish was a third-round 75.

There were few blemishes on Cook’s play at Mayakoba. He put a charge into the final round with a 66 on the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. His 270 total was 14-under. It was Cook’s best PGA TOUR finish since a T3 at the 2006 St. Jude Classic.

“I hit some nice shots early,” Cook said. “I hit quality iron shots, much longer iron shots than these guys are hitting in, but I hit them all really well.”

Champions Tour Insider Notes:

Couples is picking up right where he left off last year when it comes to excellence on the greens. Granted, he’s only played three rounds, but Couples is No. 1 in putts per round (27.33). He’s also the driving distance leader at 312.3 yards. That’s 17.3 yards more than Hal Sutton.

But it’s the putting that continues to grab Couples’ attention. He credits it for his success during the short time he’s been on the Champions Tour. He was top-ranked in putting with an average of 28.20 last year, just ahead of Corey Pavin‘s 28.53.

“I don’t even know the last time I was even in the top 10 on the regular TOUR in putting,” Couples said. “I know there were a few years where I putted pretty well. But that’s the whole thing for anybody. You don’t do well on any tour unless you putt well.”

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Langer playing great golf and makes adjustments while playing

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Bernhard Langer playing great golf

Bernhard Langer playing great golf

Preparation has always been the cornerstone of Bernhard Langer‘s approach to winning golf.

Nearly 40 years after Langer turned professional, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is how the groundwork is established. This being the technology age, it should come as no surprise that the method is dramatically streamlined but no less efficient.

When Langer cruised to his first 2011 victory at The ACE Group Classic, it was vintage. Efficient and professional.

That Langer would rebound from two largely indifferent — for him — performances to open the year comes as no surprise. Few golfers have ever known their games better than Langer. He knows what he must do to play his best and he does it.

Langer acknowledged that his game needed attention as he headed to Naples and he carved out time from a busy schedule to address it.

“I worked really hard the last two weeks on my game,” he said. “I had a couple of charity events to do as well in between on both Mondays so I was pretty tired, but I knew I had to work on my game extremely hard to sort out what clubs to use, what putter to use.”

Langer had several new sets of irons to sort through, and issues to deal with on putter specs. To help him through the process, he kept in daily touch with his swing coach, Willi Hofman.

“I was on the phone with my coach just about every day explaining what it feels like, what’s happening, and he gave me a couple tips, so it all came together at the right time,” Langer said.

Hofman didn’t take the calls in Germany. He wasn’t far away in another corner of Florida. That’s where the technology comes in.

“I can e-mail my swings,” Langer said. “I have an iPhone. I just take a picture of my swing and 10 seconds later it’s in his computer and he can look at it. It’s pretty neat. I don’t have to fly him in all the time and go through all that trouble, so modern technology really works well.

“It’s not just looking at the swing, because he’s looking at one swing on the driving range or two swings. Sometimes the tempo’s a little different or whatever, so it’s good to just talk through it and tell him, I pull it a little bit or I block it, could it be this and that, and then he would say yeah, I think it might be this or it might be that, and I go out and try it.”

Langer, 53, took his first swings with a golf club as a 7-year-old growing up in Germany. He turned professional at age 15 and soon afterwards he began working with Hofman, who was an acquaintance at the club where Langer was a young assistant pro.

“We were already playing tournaments together in Germany for about three years and that’s when he became my main coach,” Langer said.

An area of focus for Langer in advance of The ACE Group Classic was putting. He adjusted from a 46 ½-inch putter he had been using by lengthening the specs to 48 inches and also tweaked his grip. When he originally went to the broomhandle putter, it was 48 inches long but over the intervening 13 or so years, he shortened.

He adopted what he calls a pencil grip for short putts and others for longer, lag putts. The changes came two days before the Naples event and paid instant dividends.

“I had one or two putters that are still 46 and I had one putter switched to 48, so I practiced with both of them and I felt I was going to give it a go with the 48,” Langer said.

And if it hadn’t produced the desired results, Langer would have switched again. His putting and putters are constantly subject to change. Over the years, he has become a master at knowing what it takes for him to be successful on the greens. The lessons were learned the hard way, through a series of encounters with the dreaded yips, which would have tormented a less resolute golfer and forced him out of the game long ago.

Langer credits his survival to “changing grips and a lot of prayer, a lot of perseverance.”

There’s more, of course. Langer is among the most methodical, focused competitors in the game’s history.

“He doesn’t beat himself, that’s probably the biggest thing,” said Fred Funk, runner-up at The ACE Group Classic. “He just goes out there and stays with the game plan. I don’t think he ever varies from it.

“He picks and chooses his green light/red light areas where he’s going to play aggressive, where he doesn’t play aggressive. He’s always been a solid ball striker, but when he gets that putter going, it’s, ‘See ya.’”

 

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Langer wins ACE Group Classic with record score

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Bernard Langer

Bernhard Langer shot a 6-under-par 66 Sunday to set a tournament record with a 20-under 196 total and win the ACE Group Classic by four shots.

The 53-year-old Langer held a four-stroke lead going into the final round. Fred Funk got within two after Langer bogeyed No. 11, but Langer came right back with birdies on Nos. 12 and 14. He finished with a 5-footer for birdie on No. 18.

“It’s always exciting winning,” said Langer, who earned his 14th Champions Tour win. “It never gets old no matter where or how big the tournament, whether it’s a major or not. Winning is what we’re out here for, what I practice for.”

Funk had a chance to make the final hole a little interesting, but missed a short birdie putt on No. 17 and finished with a 66 for a 16-under total.

“I just couldn’t get them in the hole from there,” he said. “I gave myself some opportunities. I thought if I could’ve kept the heat on him and made a few more of those putts, but Bernhard played great.”

Nick Price (66) and Russ Cochran (67) tied for third, another shot back. Mark Calcavecchia (68) was fifth at 14 under.

“Overall, it was kind of a crazy day,” said Cochran, who was tied for the first-round lead with Langer. “I missed some putts you’d thought I’d make and made a bunch of them you didn’t think I’d make.”

Langer, a three-time Champions Tour Player of the Year, won after what had been a slow start to the year. He finished tied for 16th and 17th in the season’s first two full-field events.

Unhappy with those two finishes, Langer practiced hard this week. He came in with a new driver, even longer putter and three sets of irons to try. He called swing coach Willie Hoffman almost every day and was even worried he may have worked too hard.

“I was pretty tired, but I knew I had to work on my game extremely hard to sort out what clubs to use, what putter to use,” he said. “It all came together at the right time.”

It marked the 10th time in 11 tournaments Langer has won when he either held or shared the lead after two rounds. The German had played well in his previous two appearances in Naples, tying for fourth last year and for third in 2009.

Langer earned 240 Charles Schwab Cup points. Tom Lehman, who didn’t play this week, leads the points race with 454, followed by John Cook, Cochran and Jeff Sluman.

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Cochran and Langer grab lead in first round of ACE Group Classic

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Russ Cochran

Russ Cochran

Russ Cochran and Bernhard Langer shot 8-under-par 64s to share the lead after the first round of the ACE Group Classic on Friday.

Cochran birdied four straight holes to close his front nine here, then birdied three of the first five on the back before parring in.

“To be honest with you, I made everything I looked at,” said the left-hander, who was the tour’s 2009 Rookie of the Year, then won twice last year. “It was a surprise for me, but a welcome surprise.”

On No. 16, he sent his birdie try 12 feet past the hole, then made par coming back. On No. 17, he drove into the bunker and two-putted from 60 feet. And at the last, he drove into the bunker, slipped on his bunker shot and left that 40 yards short of the green, but made a 15-footer to save par.

Cochran had opportunities to win going into the final round at both the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii and the Allianz Championship last week, but ended up tying for fourth in both.

Cochran said he “just kind of stunk the place up” in the final round in Hawaii, where he followed up a first-round 62 with a 72 on the final day while playing with one of his heroes, Tom Watson. He was in contention last week, too, but had to take an unplayable lie after hitting under a palmetto bush and bogeyed the final hole.

Langer, who earned the Player of the Year award and the money title last year, was also looking for a better showing after finishing tied for 16th and 17th, respectively, in the season-opening tournaments.

“I wasn’t happy the first two tournaments I played,” Langer said. “There were good moments in both of those tournaments, but there were also too much other stuff, too many dropped shots, too many missed opportunities.”

So, Langer — known for his work ethic — turned that up a notch preparing for this tournament.

“I worked really hard the last few days, extremely hard; maybe too much,” he said. “I kind of wore myself out, but it didn’t show today. I had enough energy to play the 18 holes, and I just felt I needed to improve on certain areas, and I showed improvement today.”

Mark O’Meara, back from playing in the Dubai Desert Classic last week, was third after a 65 that included holing out from a greenside bunker for an eagle on No. 14.

“I kind of hit it a little bit heavy and kind of chunked and ran it up there, so it was about as perfect as it could go in,” he said.

Mark Calcavecchia, Keith Fergus and Olin Browne were tied for fourth at 5 under.

Defending champion Fred Couples skipped this event, playing instead in the Northern Trust Open at Los Angeles.

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