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    Breaking Down The International Crown

    The Post’s Steve Eubanks sat down with the LPGA’s Kelly Thesier to discuss the inaugural International Crown. Sit down with Steve and get to know this unique new event.

    Dick’s Sporting Goods Cuts PGA Pros

    Offering the latest indication of a struggling golf industry, retail heavyweight Dick’s Sporting Goods has terminated all the PGA professionals employed in the golf sections of its stores, ESPN.com reported Tuesday. Although the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment, three pros who were fired confirmed that …

    Justin Rose looks for his ball in the rough on the 14th hole during the second round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. (Stefan Wermuth, Reuters/Action Images)

    Rough Stuff At Open Championship

    You may have noticed, if you’ve been watching television coverage of either the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last week or the Open Championship this week, that the Brits have an obsession with high rough. They love it on their links almost as much as they love mayonnaise. If you’ve …

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    R&A Stops Players Gambling On Open Championship

    There’s no gambling at Bushwood … or Hoylake if you’re a player. Prior to the start of the opening round, the R&A has, for the first time, required participants in this year’s Open Championship to sign an agreement that they will not gamble on the event. For many of you …

    Mass. Golfers Accused of Insider Trading

    Phil Mickelson isn’t the only golfer whose name has come up in an insider-trading probe lately. Federal investigators last week accused a group of friends that includes some of Massachusetts’ leading amateur competitors of profiting handsomely from stock market trades placed with insider information, multiples news outlets have reported. Last …

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      Men’s Pro

      Furyk Hopes Past Is Not Prologue

      HOYLAKE, ENGLAND | The final round started and Jim Furyk was on the leaderboard. Where he always seems to be. The years and the putts roll by, but Furyk makes no concession to time. Or no less significantly, failure. Another Open Championship, the tournament he’s learned to play, links golf that he’s come to love. The man is a battler, an athlete. Harken back to his days as a prep basketball star in Pennsylvania. He wanted the ball. He still does. Age 44, after triumph and, figuratively, tragedy, on golf courses everywhere, Furyk wants the opportunity to succeed, even though that opportunity may leave him reeling – as happened during a few months in 2012. Before looking back, before recalling the pain golf can inflict on even the very best – Furyk, a U.S. Open champion, fits neatly into that category – we look ahead. Furyk had a solid Open at Royal Liverpool, finishing fourth, perhaps the beginning of what could be the most important few months of his late career, months possibly of satisfaction and validation. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my game right now,” he said during the Open. “I feel pretty good with a club in my hand and (am) putting pretty well. My attitude is good. That has a lot to do with it.” He is determined to make one more U.S. Ryder Cup team, to be in the matches against Europe the end of September at Gleneagles; determined to make us believe in him and to make us forget the agony of 2012 at Medinah. Furyk played well enough in the British Open. The first round he posted a 68, his best score since a 67 five years earlier at Turnberry. “Mentally,” he told us, “I’m in a good frame of mind, and I’ve been real happy. Mechanically and physically I felt real good over the ball.”

      Hard Work, Soft Touch

      The death last week of Bob Torrance, the coach and father of Sam, took me back to the first time I interviewed him, at his home in Largs, south of Glasgow. Talking golf was what Bob loved, a pastime exceeded only by teaching it, and for hour after hour he answered my questions in a guttural Scottish growl that would frighten a bear. The gist of what he was saying was about the intricacies of the golf swing, about Ben Hogan, his hero, and how the swing started with the lower body. One of Torrance’s most famous aphorisms was: “It’s all about the legs. It’s no good having arms like Popeye if you’ve got legs like Olive Oyl.” Another, which was meant to encourage pupils who swung the club too quickly, was: “Slow down. The train doesn’t leave until half past 6.” But on this day in Largs he also spoke about the importance of hard work. He had grafted for all that he had and it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort that he never really made it as a tournament professional. When he was younger and head pro and greenkeeper at a course in England, he would get up soon after dawn, and hit balls for an hour or two before breakfast. The day would be spent pursuing his club duties of teaching members and cutting the fairways and greens. There would be a lunch interlude during which he would practise some more. After his day’s work was done, he would return to the practice ground in the evening for more punishment. Bob Torrance may not have christened the practice ground “Heartbreak Hill” but he certainly understood why it was so named.

      Myriad Paths To ‘The Zone’

      HOYLAKE, ENGLAND | No two golfers speak about the so-called “zone” in the same way. Sergio García is not convinced that such a thing exists; Sir Nick Faldo suggests that Jack Nicklaus was in one for 20 years. “I really don’t know about zones,” began García, following his opening 68 at the Open Championship. “All I can tell you is that I play my best when I’m relaxed and at ease. That’s when I see things clearly. If I want to play a little draw, I can picture the precise shot I need. On not such a good day, I will see conflicting shots flying through the air.” In keeping with which, Nicklaus would talk of how he never embarked on a shot until “I could see a movie of it in my mind.” After his crack about Nicklaus’ 20 years in the zone, Faldo said that they had used different terminology in his day. “We talked more about ‘mental strength’ and how the really good player could make things happen,” Faldo said. “Self-belief, bottle and nerve were the basic ingredients. The moment you no longer had 100 percent certainty in what you were doing you were falling down the leaderboard. “For myself, I used to concentrate on arriving at ‘the right intensity.’ I didn’t let my emotions bounce up and down, on or off the course.” Graeme McDowell’s contribution to the debate began with a comment along the lines that the zone is not somewhere you can find like, say, the correct position at the top of the backswing. “The zone is supposed to be a perfect place and since, to cite the name of Bob Rotella’s book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, the average golfer is never going to get within a million miles of it.

      Golf Looks Toward A Soaring Rory

      HOYLAKE, ENGLAND | The different ages and eras of professional golf aren’t marked by straight lines but more by dots connected by names and places. From Morris to Vardon, Jones to Hogan, Nicklaus to Woods, they are all connected not just by their achievements but by their impact on the game. Time passes, the names change and the game’s story is richer for it. As 25-year-old Rory McIlroy stood in a cool breeze beneath a gray sky late Sunday afternoon, holding the silver Claret Jug in his hands and showing it to the packed grandstand that encircled Hoylake’s 18th green on three sides, it felt like another of those moments unfolding. It’s not as simple as declaring the end of one era and proclaiming another but McIlroy’s third major championship victory reasserted that he’s different and what he has accomplished and likely will continue to achieve separates him. Until McIlroy delivered his twostroke victory ahead of Sergio García and Rickie Fowler, only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had won the first three legs of the career Grand Slam by such a young age. Now there are three in the group. Whether McIlroy can follow their lead remains to be seen but more than anyone since Woods and, to a lesser degree Phil Mickelson, he seems capable of greatness. He seeks it. “Golf is looking for someone to put their hand up and try and I said … I wanted to be that person,” he said. “I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly. I’d love to be in that position.” Others, such as Martin Kaymer and Adam Scott, can fly, but Rory can soar.

      The Most Interesting Doubleheader In Golf

      ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND | While Justin Rose was going about his business of collecting another trophy at another bucket-list golf course Sunday in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, there was a collective eye cast 350 miles to the southwest, where the Open Championship arrives this week at Royal Liverpool. Because of the wise decision to rotate the Scottish Open around some of the country’s grand links, the financial and marketing punch provided by the sponsoring company and Phil Mickelson’s double dip last July, this has become, arguably, the most interesting doubleheader in professional golf. This is not about golf as Americans know it but about golf as they know it in and around the motherland. If the U.S. Open at the newly browned and intentionally distressed Pinehurst No. 2 gave hints of links golf, Royal Aberdeen delivered it and Hoylake (as its friends call Royal Liverpool) promises to deliver more, particularly if the weather cooperates with a fresh breeze. For some, links golf is an acquired taste, like oysters or Tarentino movies. For others, it’s a joy for the way it’s played on the ground, through the air and between the ears. When the day goes soft, as it did Sunday in Aberdeen, the game changes but it’s a temporary pause. Conditions can change like the sky, which can range from sunny to filled with shredded clouds in what feels like moments. As the weather changes, so does the game. “I think coming over here for this event is a must,” Ryan Palmer said. “I got more out of this than I ever would have playing at home. I learned so much from the course and the weather and the tough conditions. I won’t have to guess about what to do next week.

      Women’s Pro

      The Solheim’s Friendship Formula

      SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND | Having been drawn together through losing consecutive Solheim Cups, the Americans have their fingers crossed that their more united approach could lead to success in next year’s event in St. Leon-Rot, Germany. The Europeans, as you would expect, are having none of it; they doubt if it will make any difference. It was in answering questions during the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale on how the Americans had interrupted the Koreans’ dominance of the majors that first Stacy Lewis and then her friend, Michelle Wie, introduced the subject of the Solheim. “We kind of got our butts kicked in the last couple of matches and after that a lot of us just looked into ourselves and kind of re-evaluated what was happening,” said Wie. “I think we are more motivated as a result. We are pushing each other and I definitely feel a lot more camaraderie out there with my fellow Americans. It could work for us all round.” Let Paula Creamer take up the story. “It’s funny,” she began, “how a team event can have such an impact on an individual sport. Losing in Colorado has really played a big part in our recovery. I don’t like to lose and I’m trying to get better, both for myself and the match. The whole experience has kicked things up a notch for us.” Creamer will tell you that she was conscious of a need for the Americans to work with rather than against each other long before the losses of 2011 and 2013. She says that the need for change hit her forcibly when she studied how the other nationalities go about their golfing business.

      Fierce Winds Make Birkdale A Brute

      SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND | It’s the clinking and clanking that gives the game away, the noise that comes from flagpoles as they strain in a wind. That is when you know that a wind has gotten up. It’s the same when you walk along a harbour lined with boats at anchor. If there is a wind, the rigging will be jigging. At Royal Birkdale yesterday you didn’t need to whet your forefinger and hold it up to find out whether the wind was blowing and from which direction. It was quite musical to listen to the noise it made on the flagpoles outside the iconic clubhouse. On a day like yesterday, the sun bronzed the skin and the wind burnished it. It was an ideal day for a sail, a walk, for watching golf. But a lovely day on which to play golf? Perhaps not. “Phew!” Laura Davies said after her 73, 1-over par, a score that probably felt like 1 under. “It was hard work today. It was like a proper job.” Jessica Korda said: “It’s really hard on the greens and you’re standing over the ball and it’s ovulating and you don’t know whether to hit it or not.” Ovulating may not have been the word Korda had in mind but you know what she meant. “This is a 20-25-mph wind,” Brian Hodgkinson, Birkdale’s head professional, said as he peered out of the window of his shop and listened to the ringing of the tills. “It’s nothing like it was at the 2008 Open when it was blowing at 50 mph and play had to be stopped. It has been difficult this week, this course. The rough was wet the first two days and that made matters difficult. But the wind is nothing to what it was in 1961 when Arnold Palmer won here. That year all the tents blew down.”

      Lewis Vs. Wie: A Rivalry Without Sharp Edges

      Calling them rivals is lazy, a cliché to fit a narrative that fans want but one that doesn’t jibe with reality on the ground, or in the gym or on the patio at the Bear’s Club where Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie hang out and talk about everything but golf. Mention that the two of them constitute the best and most compelling rivalry in golf today and they will both shake their heads and smile. “I don’t think we consider each other rivals but I do know we both want to beat each other on the course,” Lewis said during a South Carolina beach vacation before flying to Manchester, England, to defend her title at the Ricoh Women’s British Open. “That doesn’t affect our friendship. That’s why we are happy for the other person when they win.” Wie agreed. From her home in Jupiter she said, “I enjoy seeing (Stacy’s) name on the leaderboard. It definitely gives me a boost.” That’s not exactly Duke-North Carolina or Auburn-Alabama. In fact, the loudest and most genuine cheer when Wie won the U.S. Women’s Open came from the runner-up, Lewis, who was rolling putts next to the 18th green just minutes before Michelle made her final, winning par. A week later, Wie hugged Lewis after Stacy’s come-from-behind win in Arkansas. The friendship even extends online where Wie called out Lewis on Twitter in the “ice bucket challenge,” a series of video dares in which players dump buckets of ice water on their heads and goad friends to follow in kind. They tell jokes and share stories and buy each other drinks every now and again, certainly not the kind of good, hard, hate-filled rivalry sports fans yearn for: the kind where they can take sides, wear colors and hurl invectives at those in the other camp. Fans want Yankees-Red Sox, Cowboys-Giants, Arnie-Jack; they want good guys and bad guys, red shirts and recognizable logos.

      After A Charming Open, Everybody Loves Lucy

      PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | Here, on the Monday after the U.S. Women’s Open, we know a lot more about 11-year-old Lucy Li than we did a week ago. She likes ice cream, going to arcades and eating at Dave & Buster’s. Her favorite course is the Olympic Club, her favorite player is Webb Simpson (because he won the U.S. Open at Olympic), her favorite reading material is Sherlock Holmes (and books by Rick Riordan) and her favorite subjects in school are math, science and history. Oh, and this: She’s not flustered by playing on the biggest stage in women’s golf. Not at all. That’s really the biggest and most telling takeaway from Li’s landmark week at Pinehurst. She unveiled her smooth swing and polished-beyond-her-years short game – even if she missed the cut after shooting 78-78, for a two-day total of 16-over par – but more than anything she showed the perfect personality for tournament golf. Big crowds? Cool. Double bogey? Ho hum. Pressure? Nah. Li’s charming, precocious manner helped stifle the legitimate debate about whether an 11-year-old should play in the U.S. Women’s Open (more on that in a moment). She giggled a lot, which always helps, and she seemed genuine as she fielded questions from the media. The best moment in her surprisingly relaxed, pretournament news conference came when Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press good-naturedly asked if her dad can beat her in golf. Li giggled loudly, flashing her mouthful of braces. She giggled again and giggled some more. Then, after a perfect dramatic pause, she said, “No.”

      Wie Finds Her Way

      PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | Women’s golf doesn’t need Michelle Wie but she sure does help. She isn’t Tiger. The ratings, interest and fortunes of the female professional game don’t hinge on Wie’s position on the leaderboard. But it is no coincidence that during a spring in which she logged her first win on U.S. soil and had seven top-10 finishes before arriving in Pinehurst with her parents and her little dog Lola, television ratings for the LPGA shot up between 16 and 25 percent ahead of the same period a year ago. The tour’s Facebook followers also have increased 163 percent, Twitter numbers are up 60 percent and the LPGA on Instagram (the preferred social site for millennials) is up 221 percent in the past 12 months. Not all of that is attributable to Wie. There are plenty of compelling stories and personalities in the women’s game, especially at this U.S. Women’s Open. Lucy Li was as charming as advertised. Stacy Lewis didn’t disappoint. Lexi Thompson hit tee shots that left fans gasping and shaking their heads. Pinehurst No. 2 and the USGA won a lot of new fans with back-to-back Opens. And Na Yeon Choi opened up about the pressures of being a star athlete in Korea. But Wie definitely moves the needle. This year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, where Wie and Thompson were tied for the lead on the final day, was the most watched LPGA event in five years. The LPGA Lotte Championship, the tournament Wie won in Hawaii, had the highest ratings of any women’s non-major since 2009. On Friday in Pinehurst, before she assumed sole possession of the lead, her walking gallery was not just the largest on the course, it rivaled the one Martin Kaymer had during his second round a week before. And he led by eight. As she walked off the course that afternoon, a portly North Carolinian outside the ropes said, “She’ll sure bring ’em out this weekend.” No one disagreed.

      Amateur

      Joe Sixpack Tips A Cap To Publinks Demise

      Eight years ago, Herbie Aikens qualified for his first U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. For a Boston-area native who still was new to competitive amateur golf, it was a Red Sox-winning-the-World-Series type of feeling. “I felt like my feet weren’t even on the ground,” he recalled. “I still think that might be the most excited I’ve ever been after a round of golf, just absolutely euphoric.” Aikens had played for his high school team in the late 1990s, but at 6-foot-6 he’d been more into basketball. After graduating he apprenticed as an electrician, moved to California for a spell and eventually launched an electrical contracting business back home. He’d kept in touch with the game but never became serious about it until he visited David Leadbetter’s Florida academy in early 2006. His trip to Washington State that summer for the Public Links was an eye-opener. Admittedly in over his head, Aikens missed the cut by a mile. But he was hooked. Since then Aikens has become a Public Links regular, qualifying the past four years while playing out of Pinehills Golf Club, a dailyfee facility in Plymouth, Mass. Advancing to the Sweet 16 at Bandon Dunes in 2011, he says, was a career highlight. Aikens, who also qualified for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur that year, dreams of one day strolling the pristine fairways of Augusta National Golf Club as a Masters competitor. By custom, a victory in the Amateur, Mid-Amateur or Public Links would earn him a drive up Magnolia Lane.

      New Life Breathed Into Trans-Miss

      TULSA, OKLAHOMA | Board president Steve Hatchett has been around the Trans-Mississippi Championship long enough to remember literally begging to get into the event as a college golfer at Wichita State, then feeling like he had finally hit the big time when he stepped to the first tee. Texas Golf Association Executive Director Rob Addington remembers watching his father beat future pro Bob Gilder, only to see future World Golf Hall of Famer Ben Crenshaw edge his dad in Trans-Miss competition, loaded with future golf stars. Now the two men who love the prestigious amateur event, which just finished its 111th showcase, are banding together with others to help save it from amateur golf irrelevance, which threatened this event and has caught others. The Trans-Miss, which began in 1901, boasts a winners list that reads like a World Golf Hall of Fame roster. Jack Nicklaus is a two-time winner. Deane Beman is another former champ as is Texas amateur legend Gus Moreland, plus Tour winners Mark Brooks, Bob Estes, Bob Tway, Gary Koch and Crenshaw. Tom Watson, Johnny Miller and Payne Stewart all entered the event but never won. A big move came for the college players of the 21st century when four years ago the Trans-Miss finally reversed its ill-fated decision of the 1980s that allowed mid-amateurs only. The tournament began again to invite the top college players to complete for one of the oldest amateur trophies in American golf. “I’m in the car business, so I know all about demographics and every year our numbers kept dropping. I thought to myself, ‘Nobody knows who we are anymore,’ and this was too important to let it go,” Hatchett said.

      Brother Follows Brother Into Senior Hall

      Golf stories are rarely about the actual mechanics of golf. The good ones are about the trials of the human condition, about family, friends and relationships. That is what made getting to know Louis Lee, the newest inductee into the Senior Amateur Hall of Fame, such a treat. Louis was not a blue-blood amateur and certainly not the kind of guy who expected to be a Hall of Famer. The son of a minor league baseball player, he grew up listening to the lapping waters of the Little Red River in the sleepy town of Heber Springs, Ark., where his only ambition was to keep up with his older brother Stan. The two Lees played baseball and golf but when Stan settled on the latter, Louis put the bat and glove away as well. He followed his brother out to Red Apple Country Club, a nine-hole course with push-up greens and no junior golfer restrictions. It became the Lees’ playground. In their teens they realized they were pretty good, accomplishing enough in fact that Stan received a golf scholarship to Louisiana State. Three years later Louis followed. The brothers got to play on the college team together one year but Louis knew that Stan was and always would be the better player. After graduation, Louis even followed Stan into the insurance business, the older brother opening the Rhodes and Lee agency on Searcy Street in Heber Springs and Louis following suit with a State Farm agency on West Main.

      Hochster Stands Test Of Time

      SCARSDALE, NEW YORK | In addition to boasting one of the greatest collections of golf courses in the country, Metropolitan New York is also home to several of the top amateur invitationals in the land. The Travis at the Garden City Golf Club and the Anderson at Winged Foot, to name but two. Then, there is the William Rice Hochster Memorial Tournament. Held since 1934 at the Quaker Ridge Golf Club in this Westchester County burg, it is a one-day, 36-hole strokeplay competition that attracts the region’s best players. Part of the Hochster’s luster comes from the quality of the golf course, a well-bunkered A.W. Tillinghast design routed across rolling hills and along stands of heritage hardwoods. The original 18-hole course opened in 1918, and Tillinghast returned to the layout six years later to make significant changes, just after he had finished building the East and West courses at nearby Winged Foot. Nearly 90 years later, Quaker engaged Gil Hanse to tweak the track, primarily by adding length, expanding greens and restoring bunkers. The idea was to have the course look and play as it did when Tillinghast completed his 1924 reworking, and reviews of his work have been rave. Quaker Ridge is perennially ranked among the top courses in the U.S. and has hosted important competitions, among them the 1936 Metropolitan Open, in which Byron Nelson recorded his first professional victory, and the 1997 Walker Cup.

      Stackhouse A Natural Born Leader

      ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | Little things make leaders. The right words at the right time, a smile, a confident walk, a magnetism that draws others to your side: all intangibles that inspire and all particles in the mist of leadership. Ellen Port, captain of the U.S. Curtis Cup team and one of the most accomplished amateur woman players of the past 30 years, watched quietly during her team’s initial practice sessions, hoping to find that natural leader, the one player that others gravitated toward; the one who bonded with everyone while commanding respect; the player Port knew she could rely on when the pressure cooker of international team competition heated up. She didn’t have to look far. “One of the reasons Mariah (Stackhouse) is on this team – and her golf is fabulous – but her passion, her poise and her ability to articulate and lead at the right time are extraordinary,” Port said of the Stanford standout and first African-American woman to play in the Curtis Cup. “The bond here is really special and Mariah is a big part of that. It frees you up, because if there is any tension, it does have an effect.” Stackhouse was leading long before she arrived in St. Louis, in some ways without knowing it. USGA president Tom O’Toole can take credit for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flying in to speak at the flag raising ceremony but Stackhouse, whom Rice personally recruited to Stanford, made it happen.

      Travel

      Emerald Pilgrimage

      WATERVILLE, IRELAND | There are several solid circuits around the world for those who like to travel with their sticks, routes that lead golfers on tours of top-flight tracks located in specific areas and allow both on- and off-course adventures to unfold like well-structured novels. St. Andrews, Scotland, to be sure. Pinehurst, N.C., and the Sand Belt outside Melbourne, Australia, too. Another noteworthy trek takes players on a stirring loop through southwest Ireland, with stops at some of the best links layouts in the world. Like the Old Courses at Lahinch and Ballybunion, and newer tracks at Waterville, Doonbeg and Tralee. It’s a well-worn pilgrim path trod by golfers who regard visits to one of the game’s ancestral homes as religious experiences. For many of them, it is where they taste the historic links of the British Isles for the first time. Yet it is also a favorite destination for veteran voyagers, and a place they return to time and time again. Southwest Ireland was the first part of the Emerald Isle I visited as a golfer, a dozen years ago, and I fell hard for the rugged links courses that wound through dunes and along estuaries there, and the glorious sense of playing the game in its most traditional form. And I have returned to that region happily on a couple of occasions since then. I started my latest trip there with a game at Lahinch, an austere seaside links that boasts a brilliant architectural pedigree, having been tweaked through the years by Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie and most recently, Martin Hawtree. It is as scenic as it is strategic, and the course also features two of my favorite golf holes.

      Laid Back In The Lowcountry

      HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. | As big a fan of Pete Dye as I am, I do not find his layouts particularly relaxing. Interesting, to be sure. Strategic and challenging, too. But the wild undulations of his greens often unnerve me, and so do his heaving fairways, which frequently send perfectly good shots into perfectly horrible positions. By his own admission, Pete likes to mess with golfers’ heads, and it takes no amount of effort to get into mine when I try to discern the proper angles I should take off his tees. But for some reason, I am completely at ease as I play my way around one of his masterpieces, the Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. It’s not the tiny greens on that perennial top-100 track that have led me to South Carolina, nor the devilish bunkers and well-placed water hazards that so ably help to protect par. In fact, I am having a tough day as far as scoring goes. My blood pressure, however, is at a 10-year low. I figure it must be the warmish breeze coming off Calibogue Sound, smelling faintly of salt, and the stretches of sandy soil along the borders of the golf course that calm me. Maybe it’s the sight of the live oaks lining so many of the holes here, their craggy branches draped with tawny strands of Spanish moss, and the stands of palmettos. The sound of the swaths of brown-blonde marsh grasses clattering in the wind lull me as we play the oft-photographed 18th hole, as do glimpses of ospreys scanning shallow inlets for baitfish, occasionally diving into the water to grab unsuspecting prey with their talons. And the brick red-and-white lighthouse that looms behind the green is so picturesque that it manages to take much of the fear and drama out of what is a rather daunting approach. As a result, I am not so freaked out by Pete.

      Revealing The Mayan Riviera

      PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO | The mere mention of Cancún evokes an immediate handful of images. The beach. Parties. Sunshine. Parties. Spring break. Parties. It’s not entirely inaccurate and for thousands of visitors annually, it’s why Cancún remains a hugely popular destination. But if you’re a golfer, the Cancún area probably hasn’t been high on your must-play travel list. Ah, but fly into Cancún, where the airport control tower sports a Corona beer ad, and take a right past the Walmart billboard and head down the main four-lane highway past the drive-thru Starbucks and, almost before you know it, you’re in an emerging golf destination just a few miles and a world away from the shake and sizzle of Cancún. If you like your golf trips to include warm weather, palm trees, an ocean breeze, world-class hotels that discourage spring breakers, famous-name course designers, a dose of history, unforgettable cuisine and one of the Caribbean’s coolest beach towns, then you can find it along the Riviera Maya. From Puerto Morelos near Cancún in the north to south beyond the Mayan ruins at Tulum, a stretch of more than 30 miles of Caribbean coastline, the Riviera Maya features a collection of sprawling golf and beach resorts. “What we have in Riviera Maya is very good golf and we feel we’re very good competition for Los Cabos, where there aren’t as many courses,” says Omar Velez, golf operations manager at the Riviera Maya Golf Club, a 27 hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. complex on the southern end of the Riviera. With more than a dozen golf courses sprinkled along the Yucatán Peninsula, Riviera Maya can be perfect for a buddies’ golf trip, a couples’ getaway or a family vacation. It’s less than three hours by air from many major airports in the U.S. and its popularity is mushrooming.

      Bone Valley Classic

      BOWLING GREEN, FLORIDA | Bill Coore regularly receives telephone calls from people looking to build or revamp golf courses. After all, he is one of the most sought-after architects in the game, and the courses he has created with his longtime partner Ben Crenshaw, like Sand Hills in Nebraska and Friar’s Head on Long Island, are among the best in the land. But the designer’s dance card is usually full, which means he must say no to most entreaties. So, it was not surprising that Coore graciously declined an invitation from an executive of the Minnesota-based mining giant Mosaic several years ago to visit a site in the Sunshine State from which the company had once dug phosphate rock – and where it now wanted to build a golf resort. “I said that I was really not interested in working on a Florida course,” explains Coore, no doubt fearing the land would be pancake-flat like the vast majority of the state and envisioning a plan that included lots of real estate. “But the guy on the other end of the line kept saying, ‘Please.’ So, I gave in. “The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the sandy soil,” Coore recalls. “And Ben and I love sand. Next, I saw rugged dunes and blowout bunkers stretching in all directions. It was perfect golf ground, and it neither looked nor felt at all like Florida. Then I learned there was not going to be any housing. I immediately got on the phone with Ben and told him he needed to see this place.”

      Reynolds Plantation Abounds In Options

      GREENSBORO, GEORGIA | Nestled among the tall Georgia pines, on the shores of tranquil Lake Oconee, is a golf retreat that is as beautiful to the eye and demanding of your golf game by day as it is soothing to the soul by night. Reynolds Plantation, in many ways, is the state’s best-kept secret. Located halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Reynolds has 117 holes of signature golf by some of the world’s best-known and most highly regarded architects – Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Bob Cupp and Jim Engh. There’s enough golf – and high- enough quality – to cater to just about any taste. The draw to Reynolds Plantation is golf, but it is first and foremost a real-estate play with 3,800 homeowners on property. Sales associates would love nothing more than to interest you in a homesite on which you could build a custom home. But while you’re looking at property – or if you just want a long weekend getaway – Reynolds offers plenty of amenities to short-term visitors. The 251-room Ritz-Carlton Lodge on the property was redecorated and refurbished last spring and reopened in April. The attached cottages and Presidential House also were renovated and reopened in October. The Lodge also has a 26,000-square-foot spa. And there are plenty of cottages and condos in Reynolds’ rental portfolio that can give you the feel of home-away-from-home during your visit. Reynolds Plantation was developed in the late 1980s on 90 miles of Lake Oconee shoreline and currently has 5,000 undeveloped acres. The company struggled to sell real estate during the housing slump and wound up operating under bank-appointed receivership for more than a year. MetLife, the largest U.S. life insurer, bought Reynolds Plantation in 2012 and Daniel Corp. is developing and managing the property. Once MetLife assumed ownership, the company stepped up with millions of dollars in renovations to the six golf courses, including a new clubhouse at The National.

      Gear

      True Linkswear Keeps It Lyt

      True Linkswear continues to expand its popular footwear offerings with the introduction earlier this year of its Lyt Dry and Lyt Breathe models. According to company officials, the Lyt Dry is a performance shoe that True Linkswear co-founder Ryan Moore often wears when he competes on the PGA Tour. It features an EVA/rubber combination outsole as well as a lightweight midsole and durable runner traction that is designed to provide stability in all conditions. The shoe, which comes in four colors, also utilizes a sock-fit liner, an added-stability saddle wall and a memory-foam heel. In addition, its full-grain leather uppers come with a two-year waterproofing guarantee. As for the Lyt Breathe, it is an extremely light crossover shoe that weighs a mere 8.9 ounces and comes with a breathable mesh upper as well as a sock-fit liner that is made to wrap around a person’s foot to provide both comfort and flexibility.

      Ultimate Driving Iron At Open

      While the vast majority of golfers seems to have eschewed their long irons in favor of generally easier-to-hit fairway metals and hybrids, there is still a contingent of better players that prefers those clubs for the accuracy, control and ball flight they provide. And that is the market TaylorMade Golf is trying to reach with its latest release, the Tour Preferred UDI. UDI stands for Ultimate Driving Iron, and the club utilizes a hollow construction with welded 450 Carpenter steel that allowed engineers to move weight lower and more forward for greater balls speeds – and distance – as well as higher launch angles than those usually found in those sorts of clubs. Available in three lofts – 16, 18 and 20 degrees – and equipped with KBS C-Taper Lite shafts stock, they also feature TaylorMade’s Speed Pocket technology, which is designed to allow the clubface to flex more efficiently at impact. According to company technicians, an advanced sound-dampening system gives the UDI a soft feel and crisp sound.

      New Balance Enters Golf Arena

      New Balance is best known as the maker of high-performance running shoes. But the Boston-based concern also has a significant presence in golf business, and this year released five new footwear models for that sport. One of those is the Classic 574, a men’s golf shoe that was inspired by a top-selling New Balance running shoe of that same name. In fact, the golf version is constructed on the New Balance 574 running last and boasts an athletic look. In addition, it features a waterproof, microfiber leather upper and a REVLite 10-mm drop midsole for lightweight cushioning and enhanced responsiveness. As is the case with all New Balance cleated golf shoes, it comes with the Champ One-Lok fastening system with Zarma cleats. The other new cleated offerings from New Balance include the NBG2002 and the NBG2001. The 2002 is an ultra-lightweight athletic model that also has a premium, microfiber upper that comes with two-year, limited waterproof warranty as well as an exoskeleton TPU outsole.

      Mantis Easy On The Eyes

      The original Mantis putter was introduced at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, and company officials touted the way that the face-balanced, matte green mallet helped temper eye movement so that it was easier for golfers to sink putts. “As we developed that club, we conducted a tracking study that measured eye movement when people putted,” says Chris Maher, Mantis Golf CEO. “And we found that the vast majority of those who described themselves as good putters had very little eye movement when they stroked the ball, while those who struggled moved their eyes all over the place. What that told us was that if the eyes were unstable, it was hard to make putts. So, we looked to make a putter that dealt with that issue.”

      Cameron Debuts Dual Balance Putters

      The trend toward counterbalanced putters in the wake of the decision to ban anchoring continues with the recent move by Scotty Cameron to make two of his most popular shapes and models – Select Newport 2 (blade) and GoLo 7 (mallet) – available with Dual Balance technology. According to Cameron, these counterbalanced flat sticks are designed to offer improved stability for players who struggle to make a consistent stroke with a conventional-length putter – and who realize they soon must leave anchoring behind. From his research through the years, Cameron says he has learned that the best putters in the game keep the butt end of their putters pointed to the same 1- to 2-inch circle in their midsection throughout the stroke. His Dual Balance putters, with a 50-gram heavier head and a 50-gram counterweight in the butt of the shaft, specifically are made to help players replicate that stroke without anchoring the club to the body. “The purpose of anchoring a putter is to stop the butt end from moving,” he explains. “Now that anchoring will be against the rules, we have determined that the best way to help golfers regain that stability and control is through Dual Balance. It eliminates that tendency for many players to flip, push or lead the putter with their hands.”

      Q&A

      Paul Zinger Q&A

      Long appreciated for his grit, Paul Azinger has always been a pleasant surprise. He wasn’t picked to win a major. He wasn’t supposed to come back from cancer and win again. No one expected him to become one of the most respected television analysts in the game and he certainly wasn’t supposed to upset Nick Faldo’s European Ryder Cup team at Valhalla in 2008. Now in an exclusive interview, Azinger shares his thoughts with The Post’s Steve Eubanks on everything from Tiger and bad backs to the Ryder Cup and motorcycles. THE POST Bad backs seem more prevalent now than ever before. Why is that? AZINGER When I had back problems, every orthopedic specialist I spoke with pointed out that I had a bulging or herniated disc but also let me know that almost every human being in the world does as well. Sometimes the bulge protrudes enough that it strikes a nerve and the surrounding muscles spasm to protect the disc. That is very normal and something that you find in a large percentage of the general population regardless of whether or not they play golf. A ruptured disc is a much more serious and scary situation. That requires a surgical repair. But a bulging disc, which is what we keep hearing about, is quite common. THE POST Every Ryder Cup year that the U.S. doesn’t win, you look better and better. Are you surprised that your successful pod strategy – breaking the 12-man team into three fourman units – hasn’t been more thoroughly embraced? AZINGER Not really, because it was unique to me and to that team. Not everybody believes you have to go to such great lengths to create a good team atmosphere, and they might be right. The American team last time (at Medinah in 2012) had it sewn up and let it get away on the last day. Davis (Love III) and I spent a lot of time talking and if you think back on the pairings, he put guys together in a very similar way. It was just never identified as the pod system. Whatever you called it, that team dominated the team portion of the competition. It was the collapse on Sunday in the singles that turned it in Europe’s favor.

      Q&A Mike Keiser

      Mike Keiser is still on the move. In early January, the man who created Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links in Nova Scotia finalized plans for another major golf project called Sand Valley in Central Wisconsin, 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids and 100 miles north of Madison. Keiser spoke exclusively with The Post’s Steve Eubanks about the project as well as other topics of interest. THE POST Why Wisconsin? KEISER Easy, that’s where the big dunes are (laughing). No, really, it’s a little bit more than that, because there are big dunes all over the Nebraska sandhills, some parts of Kansas – Prairie Dunes is in Hutchinson, Kansas, for example – and I know there is sand in Idaho. But I didn’t initially know that there were sand dunes in Wisconsin, which has the added benefit of being pretty close to Chicago, Minneapolis, and quite close to Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. It’s sort of close to nothing and central to a lot of stuff. So that location and the 80-foot sand dunes that no one knew were there other than Plum Creek Timber Company, were the plusses for Wisconsin. THE POST Your other projects have been off the beaten path, but you’ve had the ocean. And you’ve also been able to sell a sense of escapism. People who go to Bandon Dunes talk about it being like another world. Are you concerned that people will not travel to central Wisconsin or that they will not find it as appealing as, say, the Pacific Northwest or the coast of Nova Scotia? KEISER Yes, I am and it is definitely true sand dunes plus the ocean is a stronger draw than just sand dunes. The proximity to people counterbalances some of that, but if (demographics) were all that there was, I don’t think I would have done it.
      GlobalGolfPost-April-01-2013-Page12

      Mike Kerr, Asian Tour CEO

      Lewine Mair recently visited with Mike Kerr, the Asian Tour’s CEO, and the result was a wide-ranging interview focusing, among other things, on how quickly Asian golfers are closing the talent gap. They also discuss an expected closing of the prize money gap that will eventually force the world’s best to play more in and around Asia simply because of the size of the purses.

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