Thursday, October 13, 2016

Record-setting first day at Silverado opens 2016-17 PGA Tour season

Thin high clouds and temperatures in the mid-70s greeted fans and players on the opening day of the 2016-2017 PGA Tour season in the inaugural Safeway Open at Napa’s Silverado Resort and Spa. Windy conditions predicted for the opening round never materialized, and playing conditions on the historic North Course were perfect.

Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot at the par-3 second hole during the first round of the 2016 Safeway Open at Napa’s Silverado Resort and Spa. Mickelson finished the day at 3-under, seven strokes back of leader Scott Piercy.
Topping the parade of players who took advantage of the pristine conditions today was Las Vegas, Nevada, native Scott Piercy, who fired a 10-under 62 to take the lead after 18 holes, as well as sole possession of the course record. Among the four co-holders of the previous record of 9-under 63 was tournament host and resort co-owner Johnny Miller.

Two strokes back of Piercy after 18 holes were second-year PGA Tour member Patton Kizzire and England’s Paul Casey. Casey’s career ratcheted into high gear in 2016, after several years of injury-related doldrums, with back-to-back second-place finishes at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships during the FedEx Cup playoffs, part of seven Top 10 and twelve Top 25 finishes in 17 (out of 22) made cuts.

Besides the predicted windy conditions, the other thing that never materialized at Silverado was Tiger Woods. After his September 2 announcement of a tentative schedule for his return to tournament golf after a 14-month absence – a return which was to begin with the Safeway Open – and confirming his entry to the tournament on October 7, Woods doubled-back three days later, withdrawing from the tournament and issuing a statement on his website on Monday, October 10, citing a shaky game, but not physical injury, as the reason for his change of heart.

Phil Mickelson had expressed interest in being paired with Woods for the first two rounds, and media reports in advance of the announcement of tournament pairings indicated that the two would indeed be placed in the same group. That dream pairing – or nightmare, depending upon whether you are a fan, a golf writer, or a course marshal – was not to be, however. Still, Phil’s Faithful lined the fairways and surrounded the greens during his round, as he played with defending champion Emiliano Grillo and 2011 Fedex Cup champ Bill Haas.

Phil put on a show for his gallery, scrambling to a 3-under 69, hitting five of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, with 29 putts – and only handed out one signed glove, to a spectator on the right side of the fairway who got clipped by his drive on the par-five 9th hole.

Asked about the course, Mickelson said, “I really like it. It reminds me of the old Torrey South. The way the holes moved, the way the greens have similar contours to them and the length wasn’t overpowering but you had to be very precise to get it close to some of the holes. I like the feel of the golf course.”

Notable performances by Northern California players in the field include rounds of 2-under 70 shot by former San Jose State golfer Mark Hubbard and Clovis’s Bryson DeChambeau.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book review: The Anatomy of Greatness, by Brandel Chamblee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of 5)

Golf Channel analyst’s instruction book scores A- for content, C+ for presentation

Golf Channel analyst/commentator Brandel Chamblee knows a thing or two about the golf swing, and when he talks, or writes, about it people should take notice. A former PGA Tour player himself, Chamblee brings a tremendous amount of insight and experience, as well as a sense of history, to his on-air role, and in his recent book, The Anatomy of Greatness: Lessons from the Best Golf Swings in History, he brings the same qualities to bear in writing about the golf swing.
In his new book from Classics of Golf, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee
breaks down the simple concepts that the great golf swings have in common. 

The Anatomy of Greatness is not just another swing instruction book, like the thousands that have been published over the decades since the first, The Golfer’s Manual, by Henry Brougham Farnie, was published in 1857. Even a cursory look through the pages of the book will show that Chamblee has taken a different approach to the matter at hand. Rather than the Golf My Way (Jack Nicklaus) or How I Play Golf (Tiger Woods) approach, telling the reader “This is how I do it”, Chamblee shows the reader the characteristics of the golf swing that are common to a panoply of the greats of the game – including, of course, Nicklaus and Woods.

Taking the basics of the golf swing – the grip, the setup, posture, and the various phases of the swing movement itself – in order, Chamblee explains the basic concepts that helped make these past champions great. With a wide variety of illustrations and photographs, he shows how the greats of the game – from Jones, Snead, Hogan, and female golf great Mickey Wright, to Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Woods and others – utilized these basics to produce their championship-winning golf swings.

Along the way Chamblee debunks some popular misconceptions, especially the widespread, but misguided, concept of loading the mid-body like a torsion spring to produce power in the downswing. Instead, the reader is shown how the great champions of the past used a few key movements to produce the fluid, free-flowing swings we have seen in newsreel footage (for the earlier players in the comparisons) and television coverage of tournaments, for years. He also explains how the looser, freer swing described in the pages of the book is easier on the body, especially the thoracic spine (lower back), which is a key element in a long-lived quality golf swing.
“The premise of this theory is so massively incorrect and its problems so numerous that for over thirty years it has almost completely divested the PGA and LPGA Tour players of their ability to build on the methods of a previous generation…”

One of the really interesting things about The Anatomy of Greatness is how Chamblee traces the common roots of these fundamental concepts back to Los Angeles-based golf instructor Alex Morrison, whose influence can be seen in the swing motions of such greats as Bob Jones, and through Morrison disciples Henry Picard and Jack Grout, in the swings of Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, respectively. The same concepts can be seen in the swing motions of such 20th-century greats as Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, who though they arrived at them independently, were themselves very influential on a great number of later players.
All that being said, there is room for improvement in the book’s presentation. The layout is clumsy and rather unprofessional looking, with frequent unwelcome blocks of blank space, and in at least a couple of places, multi-page jumps in the text to accommodate poorly arranged stretches of photos and captions. The prose is rather stilted and stiff, in general, and appears to have lacked the input of a good proofreader and a firm-handed, knowledgeable copy editor. 

The mediocre-to-poor layout of the book is the reason it missed out on a fifth star, but despite those minor complaints, this slim volume (121 pages of content, plus a two-pages-and-a-bit foreword by Tom Watson) is a book that every golfer should read, and that all golfers can take advantage of to improve their game, with a bit of reading, and a bit of practice.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic golf’s Northern California connection – H. Chandler Egan

It has been 112 years since men’s golf was played in the Olympic Games, and on the eve of its return in the Rio Games of 2016, it’s worth looking back at one of the men who claimed the medals the last time around, a man with a strong connection to Northern California golf.
H. Chandler Egan, noted West Coast golf architect, and individual silver medalist in men’s golf at the 1904 Olympic Games.

H. Chandler Egan is a name that is familiar to golf history buffs with an interest in Northern California’s Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area golf meccas. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1884, Egan attended Harvard University, where he captained the golf team. Egan won the NCAA Individual Golf Championship in 1902, and was a member of the team which won three straight NCAA Division I Golf Championships, from 1902 to 1904.

Egan’s successes in amateur golf outside of the collegiate game included winning the 1902 Western Amateur at Chicago Golf Club – the first 18-hole golf course in the United States – and the 1904 U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club, the first of four U.S. Amateurs held at the venerable New Jersey course, which recently hosted its eighth U. S. Open.

When the Olympic Games came to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904, Egan competed as an individual and as a member of a team from the Western States Golf Association, one of 74 Americans and three Canadians who played for the medals at Glen Echo Country Club in September 1904. Taking home the individual gold in the second and last – until now – men’s golf competition in the Olympic Games was 46-year-old George Lyon, of Canada; Egan took the individual silver, and his team from the WSGA took the team gold.

H. Chandler Egan’s individual silver medal (left) and team gold medal (right) from the 1904 St. Louis Games.
Egan’s Olympic medals were thought to have been lost until they turned up in the autumn of 2016, tucked away on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in the former home of his daughter, and only child, Eleanor, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 101. The medals were discovered, along with a trove of Egan’s other golf memorabilia, when one of Eleanor’s sons, Morris Everett Jr., was cleaning out the house, which is located on the farm near Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where he and his brother grew up.

Chandler Egan’s connection to Northern California golf stems in part from his collaboration and association with revered golf course architect Alister Mackenzie. Mackenzie is best known in the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay region for designing the Cypress Point Golf Club in the Del Monte Forest (near Pebble Beach Golf Links) and Pasatiempo Golf Club, north across Monterey Bay in the hills above Santa Cruz.

In 1929 Egan took the lead in a partnership with Mackenzie in the renovation of the then 10-year-old Pebble Beach Golf Links layout in preparation for the U.S. Amateur. Egan played in the event (with some advantage over his competitors, we can imagine…), and reached the semifinal round before being eliminated.

That same year Egan worked with Mackenzie and his partner Robert Hunter on the design and construction of the Union League Golf and Country Club (now known as Green Hills Country Club), in the San Francisco Peninsula town of Millbrae. Across the bay in the Oakland Hills, Egan took over the re-design of the Sequoyah Country Club course in 1930, after the death of famed architect Seth Raynor, who passed in 1926 not long after submitting plans for the re-design.

Egan also worked with Dr. Mackenzie on Sharp Park Golf Course, in the coastal town of Pacifica, 10 miles south of San Francisco. A rare publicly owned Mackenzie course, Sharp Park and the Eden Course in St Andrews, Scotland, are the only two seaside public courses designed by Mackenzie. Egan oversaw the construction, in 1929, of this handsome layout, which is situated on partially reclaimed land next to the Pacific Ocean, overlooked by the rugged western face of the Coast Range hills that lie between the Pacific and San Francisco Bay.

Egan is also responsible for one of the most cherished public golf courses in the Monterey Peninsula region, Pacific Grove Golf Links, known as “The Poor Man’s Pebble Beach.”

Opening in May 1932, PG Golf Links was laid out by Egan on land which Del Monte Properties Company owner Samuel F. B. Morse sold to the city of Pacific Grove for a $10 gold piece and a promise to operate it as a public course for at least five years. Lying just inland of Point Piños, the rocky stub jutting out into the Pacific which closes the southern “hook” of Monterey Bay, Egan’s original nine-hole layout was expanded to 18 holes in 1960 with a back nine laid out right on Point Piños by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, the original architects of Pebble Beach.

As golf returns to the Olympic Games this week, golf fans in the Monterey and San Francisco Bay region can be proud of the area’s connection to the history of Olympic golf, and can still play golf courses which were designed by a man whose name is forever linked to golf and the Olympic Games.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Buick Cascada: a luxury convertible with European style – and room for your golf clubs

Convertibles. If you own one, or have ever owned one, you love ’em; if you haven’t owned one there’s a good chance you have wanted to.

Of course, if you’re a golfer, and you need room for golf bags and maybe a playing partner, a 2+2 convertible with limited trunk space may not be high up on your list the next time you're shopping for a car. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor – open your mind to new possibilities and go look at a Buick Cascada, the first Buick convertible to be sold in the United States in 25 years.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016 Buick Cascada for a week. I drove it around town, took it to the golf course locally, and then drove it on a road trip to Southern California for a golf outing – and loved every minute of it.

As a convertible the Cascada has limited trunk space, and the 2+2 seating means your rear-seat passengers are not going to be stretching their legs limo-style – but if you’re not in the market for a vehicle to carry your entire foursome to the course for a weekend round or on a buddy trip to Tahoe or Monterey, the Cascada may just be the car you’re looking for.

With just me and my golf bag in the car I laid the bag down on the rear seat – which leaves the available trunk space open for a medium-sized suitcase or two. If you have two bags to carry, as I did on one local trip to the golf course, you can stack two bags in the rear seating area, or fold down the rear seatbacks and slide the bags through into the trunk space. For up to two people and two golf bags, the Cascada offers no limitations in carrying capacity.

Comfort on my long drive came thanks to the 8-way power adjustable driver and passenger sport bucket seats. The power lumbar support system allows you to trim the seat to conform perfectly to your back for maximum comfort – a feature I came to appreciate on the 6-hour drives to and from Southern California in the Cascada.

Top-up the Cascada is as quiet as any hardtop, the double-walled soft top doing an excellent job of keeping out noise – and summer heat. Sunny days with mild temperatures are great times to drive with the top down, but when it really heats up outside you’ll want the top up and the air conditioning on. The Cascada handled triple-digit temperatures with ease as I drove through Paso Robles on the way south and over the Grapevine as I returned to the Bay Area, with none of the “skull heating” you get with an old-school, single-thickness ragtop.

When you do decide to drop, or raise, the top, the Cascada makes it simple – you can even do it while the car is in motion. The top can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph with a simple push or pull on a lever on the center console. The system automatically lowers the windows and positions and secures the top, signaling with an audible “beep” that the top is locked either up or down. It’s a much simpler proposition than dealing with the vinyl and metal-linkage top on my 45-year-old Japanese convertible, that’s for sure…

The new Buick Cascada convertible, built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, is a sporty, luxurious drop-top that will not cramp your style whether you are taking a short drive to your local golf course or going on the road with your clubs.
The Cascada is in all respects a luxury 2+2 automobile, with all of the perks and conveniences drivers have come to expect – fully-featured navigation system, sound system that includes satellite radio, and full iPod/iPhone/MP3 player compatibility with Bluetooth connectivity. Convenient steering-wheel-mounted controls allow hands-free phone use with a few buttons on the right side, with full control of the cruise control under your left thumb.

As a driver’s car I found the Cascada to be a real treat. The turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine develops plenty of power, and works well in concert with the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, and 20-inch wheels & low-profile all-season tires delivered a sure-footed and comfortable ride that I found struck just the right balance between ride comfort and handling performance.

A full rundown of the Cascada’s features and specifications can be found at , but here are the highlights:

                                 Starting MSRP    $33,065
                EPA est. mpg – hwy/city       27/20
                                        Seating for     4
           1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder engine     Standard
             4-wheel antilock disc brakes    Standard
        6-speed automatic transmission    Standard
                    Sport-tuned suspension     Standard

Taking full advantage of the cruise control system, and with no wish to rush through my time in the Cascada, I averaged 25.5 mpg for my round-trip to the southern reaches of Orange County. The trip included long stretches of level highway and freeway, some entertaining twisty two-lane driving, a long climb up the southern side of Tejon Pass, aka “The Grapevine”, and of course – some top-down cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu.

Designed and built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, the Cascada brings a touch of Continental sophistication to the Buick line that might surprise car buyers who haven’t looked at the marque in a few years. If you have any doubt that the Cascada will turn heads, consider this: With a BMW i8, at least one AMG Mercedes, and a Maserati parked in the forecourt of the resort where I was staying, the Cascada elicited admiring remarks from the valet who parked the car.

The Cascada is a serious contender for the discerning driver who wants performance and luxury in a fun-to-drive car that will get them to the golf course, or anywhere they go, in style.