WGT Golf News

  • Byron Nelson: Our Last 19th Hole Conversation (Part 1 of 3)

    02 Oct 2009

    By Peter Kessler

    Byron Nelson was born in Texas in 1912, the same year as his rivals Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. He died in September of 2006. The first player to make a successful transition from hickory to steel shafts in the early 1930s, Nelson never made a swing change after his 24th birthday. He never needed to. He was the first of his great triumvirate to win majors and set records. He traveled by car when there was no modern tour, when fresh tires were a player’s best friend. And after winning every important American event, he left the tour at age 34 and bought the Texas ranch he’d dreamed of. He has lived there with his first wife, Louise, who died in 1985, and then with his second wife, Peggy. Nelson played with Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen. He did better against Hogan and Snead than they did against him. The best player in the world from 1937 until he retired in 1946, he left behind one unbreakable record—his 11 straight victories in 1945—and several that were as remarkable, including 113 consecutive top-20 finishes and 18 wins in a stretch of 30 events in a single season. He was the perfect interview. Over many years, things had gotten to the point where I didn't really ask him questions anymore—I offered a phrase or a few scant words, and Byron Nelson told his wonderful stories, as fluid as honey. I was recently asked if I would like to have had a mind like his at age 93. My answer: Why do I have to wait 40 years?

    We spoke for the last time at the TPC at Las Colinas, not far from his ranch, Fairway Ranch in Roanoke, Texas, where Nelson lived for 59 happy years.


    Tell me about the caddie tournament at Glen Garden in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1927, when you and Ben Hogan were 15 years old.

    The members at Glen Garden threw a party each Christmas and invited the caddies to turkey dinner. Before dinner, the members would caddie for the caddies. We played 9 holes, and par was 37. That year, Ben and I tied with 40s. There was still plenty of daylight, so the members decided we would have a playoff. So we played another nine. He shot 40 and I made about a good 15-footer on the last hole for a 39.

    What was Hogan like as a teenager?

    He was smaller than the other kids and had to defend himself. That, plus his father’s suicide, hardened Hogan and made him determined to succeed.

    You and Ben had another playoff 15 years later, at the 1942 Masters. What was the mood?

    I was nervous. I don’t know why because I wasn’t afraid of my game, but I was very tense on the first tee. I hit a high push to the right and made 6. After 5, he’s leading by three shots, but I was not disheartened. The 6th hole is a par 3, downhill, and when I walked to the tee, why, I felt very comfortable because it was about a 6-iron shot then. Back in those days they called me Spade Nelson—a spade was a 6-iron. Ben hit his ball just off the green to the left and had a tough up-and-down. I thought, “If I can get this one close and make two, I can catch a couple of shots back.” I hit my tee shot to seven or eight feet. Ben made 4 and I made 2, and that started the string. From 6 through 13, I played 6-under-par. In the end I shot 69 to Ben’s 70.

    It was a great compliment to you and Hogan that Tommy Armour and other players stayed to watch the playoff.

    Now, I didn’t gamble, but Tommy Armour was a good irons player and he thought I was a good irons player, so he made a sizeable bet on me. After the 5th hole the man he’d bet with offered to let Tommy settle at 50 cents on the dollar. But Tommy said no: “The game is just now starting.”

    You turned pro in 1932, as players turned from hickory shafts to steel. What was the critical swing change players had to make when hickory gave way to steel?

    When steel shafts first came out, many people said they would never catch on. But I liked them right away. With hickory you used a very strong left hand, left arm and left side. The clubface would open and you had to close it up. With steel, you didn’t have to open and close the face. You could use a more neutral grip with steel. I got a good body turn and came all the way through with the left side leading. You control the club with the left side and the right side catches up at the proper time.

    Was the change from hickory to steel the biggest change in golf equipment?

    No. Reducing the weight of the shafts was bigger. When I played, the shafts were heavy. Now, with lighter shafts, you can gather more clubhead speed. That’s what makes the ball go a long way.

    How much has the swing changed in the 70 years since you became the father of the modern swing?

    Very little. The swing is fuller now with lots of extension, lots of time to build clubhead speed. I had a three-quarter swing and used a lot of foot and leg action, which I learned to do on my own because nobody did that with hickory shafts. When Davis Love III came out to the Tour, his backswing was 17 inches longer than mine. It’s the same with Tiger. But there is a reason I still get credit for the modern swing. It’s because I was the first player to use the lower body. You couldn’t use your lower body with hickory; you had to hit against a firm left side. Sarazen said I’d never make it because I had too much lower-body action. Of the great early triumvirate of Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, Sarazen gets the least attention. I played Gene twice in the PGA Championship when he was still playing great: once in 1941 and once in 1945. I beat him twice. Gene’s swing didn’t have any false motions. He just turned and came back and hit the ball, setting the club to exactly the same position. For years, Snead and Gene and I played nine holes at The Masters. Then we got too old and started just hitting balls off the first tee. Sarazen also made the change from hickory to steel and continued winning majors. Great players like Jones, Sarazen, Hagen and Chick Evans—Evans won the 1916 U.S. Open with seven clubs—could have been champions in any era. When Bobby Jones designed steel-shafted clubs for Spalding in 1931, the players all switched and played well. The key change was in the takeaway. With hickory you had to open and close the face. With steel, you just took it straight away and straight back through, which was fairly easy to do.

    You saw Sarazen’s final-round double eagle at the 1935 Masters, perhaps the most famous shot in golf history.

    By accident. On the 17th hole I drove to the right. The 15th and 17th are parallel. I had to wait to play my shot until Gene’s gallery got out of the way. So I stood right there. I saw it go in the hole. So did Bobby Jones, who was standing behind the 15th green at the same moment, with but two dozen other people. Jones was the greatest. He was an amateur, a businessman, a great attorney, and he played golf differently than I ever felt I could play. He was free and easy and had a great, long rhythm and moved a lot through the ball. I never did play like that. When I was invited to Augusta in 1935 and met him, I was impressed with his manner and the authority with which he spoke of the game. After 1930 the only place he ever really played was Augusta, and I played with him a few times there and became very close to him. He had such great command of the English language. That was remarkable to me because I just talk Texas talk. I don’t think there is anybody I admired more than Bob Jones.

  • New Tournaments Open to All Countries

    01 Oct 2009

    October is here, and we have some new credit-payout tournaments for you to play that are free to enter and open to all countries. Weekly tournaments will be open to all countries starting next week. Playing for bragging rights might have been fun, but playing for credits is so much better!

    Tier tournaments are also back, featuring premium golf gear and gift cards:

  • The Truth About Playing Better Golf

    30 Sep 2009

    By John Diekmann

    practice golf The Truth About Playing Better Golf

    I’m going to let you in on a little secret about improving your golf game. I’ve validated it based on my own game, my friends’ games and PGA Tour pros.

    First we start playing golf and after a period, let’s say a couple of years, we reach a plateau. This plateau is more than a scoring range, it’s also how much golf you play and where it fits in your life.

    Let’s take a fictional golfer named Doug who is a 12 handicap, plays once a week in a nine hole league and gets out, on average, for another 18 holes a week. He might hit a bucket of balls once a week, practice putting for 20 minutes and maybe even get 15 minutes of greenside chipping.

    New technology or swing ideas or anything else won’t improve Doug’s game unless he plays and practices more. There are no magic bullets that will help him that don’t require more time invested in golf each week. That’s the truth plain and simple. If Doug wants to get to the next plateau, say an 8 handicap, he is going to have to commit more time to playing and practicing each week.

    If you’ve been playing golf for any length of time, you know this to be true. I’m not saying that you won’t ever have an outing that is much better than normal, but you won’t sustain it for any period without more time on the course and practice area.

    Sure it’s OK to read tips, buy new equipment or even invest in one on one instruction, but don’t expect to get to the next level without spending more time playing and practicing. If you don’t believe me, just look at the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

    As soon as they cut back on playing and practicing time, their games go down a notch. They know it and expect it. After a winter break, even the best in the world have to spend more time on a weekly basis at playing and practicing to get back to the highest level of play.

  • As The Season Starts To Slip Away

    29 Sep 2009

    By Peter Kessler

    Tiger could have skipped the first three events of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs and still been seeded 3rd for the finals. He didn’t know it, the Commissioner of The PGA TOUR, Tim Finchem, didn’t know it. Oh, boy, I hear tomorrow’s news.
    Which Beatles album should you buy to see if you like the new redigitized versions of their catalogue? Abbey Road.
    If Monty, the 2010 Euro Ryder Cup Captain, doesn’t stop trashing his players and the media, no will be speaking to him by the autumn of next year.  And if he doesn’t get selected to the World Golf Hall of Fame for 2010 he will howl and scream and kick and squeal and be a big target for us to throw barbs and darts at.
    The big question this year about the playoffs was: does golf lend itself to playoff formulas and the answer is that it does. Here’s why: every great player in the world showed up for seven of the last nine events. We don’t care what the events are called, we don’t care where they are, we don’t care about the prize money or the trophies or the gathering of points, we just want the great ones to be there and they were.
    In the second to last playoff event Brandt Snedeker, one of the TOUR’s best putters, four putted from twelve feet to throw away a cluster of major appearances and millions of dollars. This tells us that the players think the playoffs are important and therefore so should we.
    The Playoffs were structured so that one player could have had a putt worth $11.35 million on the last hole of the last tournament of the season. No one has ever putted for that much money before.
    Winning a major championship doesn’t get you an automatic invite to the President’s Cup team. Lucas Glover won the US Open but has to rely on a wild card selection to get in. Time for a rethink of how the team is put together.
    I still think Tom Watson should have been a selection for the U.S. side. More people will show up to watch Watson play than to watch Hunter Mahan play. It’s that simple. Watson is much more fun, more telegenic, a better story, and in many ways has had a better year.
    I was once kicked out of the USGA museum for spending too much time in their library.
    Is Michelle Wie the future of the LPGA? Is Paula Creamer the goods?  Is Natalie Gulbis ever really going to win tournaments?  We can say all of the politically correct things we feel we need to but what is going to happen to the popularity of the LPGA if the best players in the world, say the top five, are from outside of the United States?
    There are no fifth majors. The Players Championship is the first Players, not the fifth something, the Fed Ex Cup is the first of its kind, The Ryder Cup and The President’s Cup unique.  Nicklaus and Palmer should play all 18 at Augusta National next April instead of hitting one shot off of the 1st tee. Everyone wants to see them play, so let them. Up tees, carts, zillions of fans.  Brittany Lincicome and I are fast friends on Facebook. Eat your heart out.
    Other than you get an Olympic medal and you get to say you were an Olympian and walked with the other American Olympians in the stadium what selfless reasons are there to have golf in the Olympics?

  • Play Marathon Golf to Benefit Charity

    28 Sep 2009

    By Ryan Ballengee

    I'm sure you've heard of a marathon.  You may have heard of a phone-a-thon.  But, have you heard of a golf-a-thon?

    There's a charity event down in North Carolina at the TPC Wakefield Plantation course on October 12 to benefit the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation.  The concept is simple.  Thirty-six player register to play as much golf as they can on a single day.  Beforehand, they ask for pledges from folks who will support them with a donation of so many dollars per hole.  The event's goal is $2500 per person, or about $2 per hole from 18 people for 36 holes.

    Well, if you live in the Raleigh area or are interested in playing in the event, check out the registration website.  I thought this was a great idea and should do a lot of good for the Jack & Jill Foundation.

  • The Final Day of The Season-Fed Ex Cup Style

    27 Sep 2009

    By Peter Kessler

    Kenny Perry is not everyone’s favorite player, I know that.  He basically didn’t show up for the majors last year, he improved his lie very clearly earlier this year; he made silly excuses when he blew the Masters this past spring. He is not entertaining by a very long shot in a game meant to entertain. He is not the fun bunny. But no one wants to see the guy implode today, or do they?

    Early in their television coverage, NBC did not make it clear that Perry would not automatically win the Fed Ex Cup by winning the Tour Championship. It made the early proceedings confusing.

    Johnny Miller said that Padraig Harrington was the best player in the world out of the rough yet his play from greenside rough yielded two recent “eights” in critical situations.

    Jimmy Roberts said if Fed Ex had not sponsored the Fed Ex Cup there would be no Fed Ex Cup. No kidding.

    I think I have it. If Kenny Perry wins the Tour Championship he wins the Fed Ex Cup if Tiger finishes tied for 3rd or worse. No wonder they didn’t tell us.

    NBC’s worst dream looks possible after two holes. A romp by Kenny Perry. Fed Ex can’t secretly be thrilled either. Where’s the remote? How are the Patriot’s doing?

    Johnny Miller. “Phil could be tough next year.” Next year?! Next year?! Next Year??

    Stop already with the good plays! Stop. There are no good plays in golf. There are no plays at all in golf. There are good intentions. There are good strategies, well-planned shots, well-executed ones, bad shots, indifferent shots, stupid shots, hideous shots, embarrassing shots, and laughable shots.  But there are no plays.

    Johnny Miller on Sean O’Hair. “The best swing on tour.” Oh, boy.”

    In six years of working together on Phil’s putting, Phil Mickelson and Dave Pelz have never worked on Phils’ putting technique. Are you kidding? They worked on reading greens and strategies but they never worked on how to putt? No way.

    Now that Kenny Perry has stopped making 20 footers for pars is it possible that Phil and Tiger could end the season with the shootout we’ve prayed for for years?

    It was hard enough to watch Kenny Perry miss shot after shot, approach after approach, only to save it with bombs on green after green, but now that the putts are missing…this is very hard to watch with both eyes open.  I want someone to win it, not save it.

    And now here comes Phil, putting like the genius we keep hearing he is but waiting for him to prove it. Every putt today goes in or looks like it might go in. Now that is the sign of a great putter-when it looks as though they might all go in.

    Through 11 holes Tiger has no birdies and Kenny Perry has hit two of the 11 greens. Yike!

    I love these 30 man fields. It means that statistically Tiger and Phil have a greater chance of head to head battles on Sundays. Same for Tiger and Padraig, and Ernie and Sergio and well, you get it.

    Guys are starting to hit some poor shots (see, it’s not make poor plays!) on the back nine on Sunday at the Tour Championship. They feel some pressure. The Fed Ex Cup is gaining some traction.

    Tiger and Sundays haven’t gotten along on more than a few occasions this year. We’re not used to that. Either is he. Get over it. He is.

    Geeze, what a rough day for Kenny Perry. His whole game is gone yet his family is there smiling, the kid is on the bag smiling, Kenny is smiling, head held high like he was looking over the horizon. They haven’t forgotten that golf is a game, cruel sometimes, but still a game.

    Every once in a while in final rounds Phil hits all the fairways with big bombs and hits precise approaches into little platforms on the greens. Three quarter swings. Crisp chips. He’s going to keep doing it today, you can tell. That’s my signal. I’m going out to play.

    Two things Johnny Miller just said.
    One.  ‘Phil could be player of the year next year.” Gotta love Johnny.
    Two.  He said good chipping means the right hand works down through the chip.
    I am going out to try that right now.
    I am back.
    Gotta love that Johnny.
    It works!!!!

  • Weekend Highlight Reel

    25 Sep 2009
  • PGA Tour May Lose Sponsors & Tournaments, May Not, Who Knows

    24 Sep 2009

    By Ryan Ballengee

    As part of Tim Finchem's State o' the Tour address yesterday, he was asked about the possibility of losing sponsorships and tournaments for 2010 given the economic halting this year (that may be thawing now).  His response was, well, murky.

    I think it's possible we could lose a couple of events. It's probable that we're going to lose some sponsors. They're two different things, really. You lose a title sponsor to an event and you can't replace—you can't keep that particular tournament going -- well, Buick Open going to the Greenbrier is a good example. In losing the Buick Open sponsorship, we also lost a tournament, and we replaced it with a new tournament. There may be some more of that ahead, I don't know, but it most likely will be some more sponsorship loss.

    Despite that, he answered a follow-up question on that by saying that it is "unlikely" that the total number of events in 2010 will be lower than in 2009.  Prying further, he was asked if some Fall Series events would transition to the big boy FedExCup schedule.

    [Y]ou have a tournament that starts out as an event opposite World Golf Championship or something, and then it blossoms into something that is deserving of its own date just because it's demonstrated strength, et cetera, et cetera.

    But, that didn't work out for the Turning Stone Championship—the tournament with the richest purse and best field in the Fall Series, and the event most clamoring to get into an open FedExCup date.

  • The Real (Kinda) Y.E. Yang Is on Twitter

    23 Sep 2009

    By Stephanie Wei

    South Korean native Yang, the ‘09 PGA Champion and the man who took Tiger down, has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. Hooray. He’s taken to it pretty well and “@replying” fans. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty pumped when he responded to me after I welcomed him.

    Several people questioned whether it was really him because he speaks through an interpreter for interviews. I was skeptical, too. But in my experience, I know it’s sometimes easier to read and write in a second language than speak it (especially in front of a large audience). Still, some of his tweets were a tad too grammatically correct.

    Yang answered our doubts last night when he tweeted:

    Yes its me. My agent gets to type in the stuff in English. Yes My English needs improving

    Surprise! And he’s honest. And he gets an A for effort. And I like his tweets. Follow him.

  • One Week Left to Play September Tournaments

    22 Sep 2009

    There are a couple of big tournaments ending on September 30, so if you haven't played them, be sure to do so soon! Here are some of the ones ending in a week:

    • ADT Million Dollar Challenge - Play for a chance to win a trip to the Breakers Resort in Florida to compete in the 2009 ADT Golf Skills Challenge, where you will have one chance to hit a 120-yard short iron shot for $1 million if the shot results in a hole-in-one!
    • Pilsner Urquell 2010 Open Challenge - Play the Old Course at St Andrews Links in Scotland for a chance to win a trip for 2 to the 2010 Open Championship!
    • The World Amateur Challenge - Play for a chance to win a trip for two to Myrtle Beach to play in the 2010 PGATOUR Superstore World Amateur Handicap Championship.
    • People vs The Pros VIP Sweeps #8 - Your last chance to win a vacation to Pinehurst Resort and a spot in the 2009 People vs The Pros VIP golf outing with Fred Couples or Nick Faldo.
    • Sept People vs The Pros Open - Last chance for Pro and Master tier players to earn a spot in the 6th Annual People vs The Pros Championship, to play against Fred Couples or Nick Faldo on ESPN2!

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