Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tiger Won't Make Cut at 2010 Masters

If Tiger Woods makes the cut at the 2010 Masters, he’ll go down as the greatest sexual escapade comebacker since William Jefferson Clinton. The former president was somehow able to compartmentalize and still effectively govern the last few months of his term. Clinton has even evolved into a respected statesman on the world stage despite his, shall we say, checkered past.

I don’t think Woods can pull of a Clintonian-style miracle. With his image shattered--and who knows about his psyche-- from months of non-stop mistress accusations, sensational tabloid and celebrity web-site headlines and intensive rehab, I believe Woods will need to be superhuman to make the cut, much less contend or even win the Masters this year.

While golf media types everywhere drivel on endlessly about how “the Masters is the most controlled environment in sport and is seemingly impenetrable” to drunken unruly fans and sleazy media types, they might be right about the rowdy beer guzzlers, but the tabloids and celebrity websites will, no doubt, go into commando mode to ruffle the feathers of the Green Jacket crowd and Tiger fans everywhere.

First, they’ll find out where Tiger is staying for the week. Then they’ll pay outrageous prices to scalpers to get inside the Augusta National gates, and they’ll slip a few greenbacks to every landscaper, bartender and garbage collector who can feed information on Tiger, his family, entourage, agents and corporate hanger on types.  Moreover, look for all the mistresses to resurface during Masters week to add on a few minutes to their “fifteen minutes of fame”

The 2010 Masters is shaping up to be an epic battle for the ages: The Tabloids versus The Green Jackets. I’m going with the Augusta National types who could teach a couple of things to Homeland Security. However, I think the additional hassles Tiger will face and the fact he hasn’t played competitively since November will make it difficult for him to shoot consistent rounds for four days.

Tiger has often been a slow starter on Thursday and Friday and I don’t think he’ll make it to the weekend.

If Woods proves me wrong and blocks out the craziness,, the National Enquirer and other celebrity news outlets throw at him, then he truly is the greatest golfer who ever walked the planet.

Until then, Jack Nicklaus is the greatest.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go Fish and Golf

I once saw a sign at a tackle shop in Key Largo, Florida that aptly summed up fishing’s universal appeal. The sign read: The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions of hope.

Hmm, sounds a lot like golf to me.

Both sports require mental flexibility—the ability to adapt to changing conditions and situations. Also, a great golf swing and a perfect cast both involve exceptional timing and coordination.

Many golfers tout fishing as the ultimate escape from the mental rigors of golf.  Golf icons Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus, PGA Tour stars like Davis Love III and David Duval and Champions Tour players Andy Bean and Joey Sindelar are professed anglers.

My favorite place to fish is around Panama City Beach in the Florida panhandle, where you can fish offshore in the gulf, surf fish, pier fish or drop a line in the bay or many of the lakes in the area. If you’re looking for a charter to fish the Gulf of Mexico and the Big Bend area, I recommend Captain Steve Sharp (850-984-5839) in Panacea, Florida, about 30 miles south of Tallahassee. Sharp holds a Coast Guard Master’s license and has been taking charters for 18 years aboard his 30 footer. Quite simply, he knows the water and he knows the weather.

I look at fishing and golf as a sort of “Fusion Getaway”. Mix a little of each in your recreation menu and it makes for a very relaxing way to spend a few days.

Whether you want to do a little angling on a course between rounds, fish lakes and rivers with the help of a guide or go after big game fish on the high seas, rest assured, there’s a golf resort or destination awaiting to accommodate your fishing desires once you stop chasing the white dimpled ball for the day.

Baypoint Marriott Golf Resort & Spa (Panama City, Florida)—It has two excellent championship courses—The Meadows and the Nicklaus Design Course. For anglers, fishing boat rentals are available as well as 23 stocked lakes and a 205-slip marina that accommodates yachts up to 120 feet long. The venerable Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament held each July offers the largest purse for billfish in the continental United States. Blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, and dolphin rate as the big catches.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)—What a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts! First, the golf. How about five golf courses with designer tags like Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player? Fishing wise, you’ve got everything from fishing creeks and marshes for redfish, spotted sea trout and flounder to near coastal fishing for tarpon and barracuda to surf fishing.

Melia Cabo Real Beach & Golf Resort (Los Cabos, Mexico)—The golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. meanders through rugged desert terrain and every hole has a spectacular ocean view. In Los Cabos, the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet, creating some of the best marlin fishing in the world. Enough said.

Sandestin Beach Resort (Destin, Florida)—When you get done playing the resort’s 4 championship golf courses (Baytowne, Burnt Pine, Raven and Links), the on-site, 98-slip Baytowne Marina offers opportunities for bay, beach and gulf fishing opportunities.

Sea Island The Cloister & Lodge (Seas Island, Georgia)—In shore you can cruise the marshes in search of trout, redfish, flounder and whiting. Offshore, there’s bottom fishing over an artificial reef for mackerel, cobia, barracuda and sailfish. The Sea Island Yacht Club has six custom boats designed for fishing and touring the Georgia coast.

Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort (Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania)--It has 27 holes of golf including A.W. Tillinghast’s first ever design built in 1911. Fishing is on resort grounds in the Delaware River and encompasses the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The “Big D”, as locals call the river, has seasonal runs of shad and striped bass, along with resident populations of trophy trout, smallmouth bass, walleye and muskellunge.

Sunriver Resort (Bend Oregon) --For fly fishing enthusiasts, this resort is bounded on two sides by the Deschutes River, an outstanding river for brown, rainbow and steelhead trout. Also, there are over 100 lakes and 450 miles of rivers located within one hour of the resort. Golf offerings include three championship layouts and a nine-hole short course.

WaterColor Inn & Resort (Near Destin, Florida)—In addition to having access to great courses like the Tom Fazio designed Camp Creek, Greg Norman designed Shark’s Tooth and Davis Love III’ s innovative Origins 6-hole layout, guests can easily set up fishing expeditions through Old Florida Outfitters, a store adjacent to the hotel that specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle. They’ll set you up with an experienced guide or charter.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Must Play in Tallahassee, Florida

I make several treks to north Florida every year from my home in Orlando. Some of my favorite courses in the panhandle near the beaches include Camp Creek near WaterColor, The Hombre in Panama City Beach and Burnt Pine and Raven at Sandestin Resort in Destin.

Inland, I recommend the SouthWood Golf Club in Tallahassee, an upscale, public-access course designed by PGA Tour player Fred Couples and architect and design partner Gene Bates.

Set on rolling hills framed by large stands of moss-draped oaks, SouthWood has a decidedly Old South flavor. You’ll have to go further south if you want a palm-laden experience. At SouthWood the holes are routed around a wetland area, through thickets of pine and oak and stretches of open meadow.

The golf experience is a pleasurable four-hour walk in the park, so to speak. SouthWood is enrolled in Aubdubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses to ensure that the course helps protect the local environment, conserve natural resources and provide wildlife habitat.

I’m not the only one that thinks SouthWood is a great place to play. A host of top-notch college programs are teeing off Friday through Sunday (March 12-14) for the 2010 Florida State University Seminole Intercollegiate tournament. The teams playing are Arkansas, Baylor, Cincinnati, George Mason, Georgia State, Mercer, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Texas, South Carolina, Troy, Western Carolina and Vanderbilt. Both Florida State and South Carolina are ranked in the top-10 in the nation by Golfweek/Sagarin.

If you get to Tallahassee either on business or pleasure, make sure you play SouthWood. You’ll love it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finally, Some Good Golf News

Are you sick and tired of nothing but bad news about our lousy economy, golf resorts going into Chapter 11 and everybody bemoaning Tiger Woods’ absence? Surprise. I’ve actually got some good news to report. How about these happenings:

Camilo Villegas

It’s about time a flashy star stepped forward in Tiger’s absence. Villegas’ impressive five-stroke victory at the Honda Classic at PGA National has put the young Colombian back in the spotlight. Known as “Spider-Man” for his contortionist, pretzel-like technique while lining up putts, Villegas has the kind of youthful energy and star power the PGA Tour desperately needs. Let’s face it, even when pre-mistresses Tiger was going strong, the PGA Tour had become somewhat stale because nobody really paid much attention during the many weeks Tiger did not play. Since Tiger typically teed it up less than 20 times a year on the Tour, there were lots of weeks fans just didn’t care. Granted, a non-Tiger Tour has lost a major amount of sizzle, but the PGA Tour will be better off if it develops a larger galaxy of stars like Villegas, Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and others. I’d love to see Camilo go back-to-back and win this week’s WGC-CA Championship at Doral.

Great Golf Travel Deals

These sorry economic times have rewarded us with some great golf travel deals. For instance, Golfpac Travel is featuring the “Amelia Island Plantation Unlimited Golf Package”, which is good to December 31, 2010. The package costs $386 per golfer (based on 4 persons sharing a resort view three-bedroom villa). Amenities include two nights’ accommodations, unlimited green and cart fees on Ocean Links, Oak Marsh and Amelia River courses and resort service fee and taxes. Daily housekeeping is not included in villa units, but can be added for a fee. For those not familiar with Amelia Island Plantation resort, it’s located 29 miles northeast of the Jacksonville, Florida airport on 1,350 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.

Terrific New Course

There’s a lot of gloom and doom with new golf course construction in the U.S., but there are some excellent new layouts debuting around the globe. One of my favorite new ones is The Black Pearl, a Pete and Perry Dye design on the tropical island of Roatan, 35 miles off the northern coast of Honduras. The centerpiece of the 400-acre Pristine Bay Resort, the course has ocean views on 14 holes and a signature island-green, par-3 11th hole. Play starts oceanside, rises into the island’s rolling foothills and then takes golfers back to the seaside clubhouse. A five-star, 120-room resort hotel and spa is slated to open in February 2011.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Major Florida Golf Resort Files Chapter 11

More bad news on the golf travel front. On Monday, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. If you somehow don’t know the property, the hotel is the site where the media congregated a mile or so away from where Tiger Woods made his public apology.

Apparently while Woods was singing the blues, the resort was putting the finishing touches on its bankruptcy plan. Court documents pretty much blame weak corporate and group bookings for the miserable financial shape the resort finds itself in.

Golfers visiting the property won’t notice much if any difference, however. “This action is in response to the current global economic environment and the fact that an agreement on a restructure with the lenders could not be reached,” said Jeff Mayers, general manager of the resort in an e-mailed statement to the media. “This process will protect the resort and allow us to continue to operate business as usual. We are firmly committed to maintaining our world-class operation and forsee no changes in the day-to-day operations at Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa.”

Situated adjacent to the PGA Tour headquarters, the 348-room resort with 83 golf villas has three restaurants, 56,000 square feet of meeting space, a 25,000 square foot spa and other amenities. For golfers, perhaps the resort’s biggest perk is that it has the exclusive right to 85 percent of all starting times each day at the TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course and Valley Course for resort guests for the next 78 years.

The wretched economy has been terrible for golf resorts.  Preceding Marriott Sawgrass to Chapter 11 are well-known resorts like St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in California, Amelia Island Resort in Florida, Daufuskie Island Resort in South Carolina and Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Texas.

Monday, March 1, 2010

ESPN Wide World of Sports, Annika, Disney Golf & Tiger Updates

I took a short break from following golf and on Thursday February 25th and Friday February 26th I stayed at the Disney’s Beach Club Resort while attending a host of activities associated the rebranding of the Wide World of Sports complex, which is now called ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The complex holds a slew of youth sports and professional sports events annually (more than 300). Sprawling some 220 acres, the complex encompasses The Fieldhouse, a 165,000-square-foot facility with 5,500 seats for basketball; Champion Stadium ballpark with 11,500 seats where the Atlanta Braves hold spring training; Hess Sports Fields, which include multiple baseball, softball and soccer fields; Jostens Center, an 80,000 square-foot multi-sport fieldhouse; and Innovation Lab, a real-world testing ground for the ESPN Emerging Technology group to develop ground-breaking on-air products like Ball Track and ESPN Snap Zoom.

Among the sport celebrities in attendance where NFLer’s Chad Ochocinco (Cincinnati Bengals), Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars), Garrett Hartley (New Orleans Saints), Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Bucs), Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis Colts) Teddy Bruschi (formerly of the New England Patriots), soccer star Brandi Chastain, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Shawn Johnson, South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier, softball star Jennie Finch, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, golf icon Annika Sorenstam and ESPN personalities Skip Bayless and Ron Jaworski. The celebs all strolled down a green not red carpet, which was staged to look like a football field.

Annika Sorenstam Update

It was great to see Annika Sorenstam at the Disney Wide World of Sports activities. Sorenstam is transitioning to an entrepreneur. She’s combining her passions-golf, fitness, fashion, cooking and wine—into various businesses under the ANNIKA brand. Heading her blossoming portfolio of business interests are a golf course architecture company, a golf academy at Ginn Reunion Resort in Orlando, a clothing line with Cutter & Buck, a signature perfume called “ANNIKA” and wines in partnership with Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California.

Disney Golf Update

I’m not sure if many golfers realize it but Disney has downscaled somewhat from five championship golf courses to four. The Eagle Pines layout designed by Pete Dye does not it exist anymore. The land is being utilized for a Four Seasons resort set to come on line in the future. Disney golf offerings include the Magnolia and Palm courses near Disney’s Polynesian Resort; Osprey Ridge near Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground; Lake Buena Vista near Downtown Disney; and the Oak Trail, a 9-hole, par-36 layout near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Tiger Woods Endorsement Scoreboard Watch

Gatorade announced over the weekend that it’s dropping Woods as an endorser. If you’re keeping score at home, AT& T and Accenture has dumped Tiger and Gillette and Swiss watchmaker Tag Huer have de-emphasized him in their marketing programs. According to my records, still hanging in there with Woods are Nike, EA Sports, Golf Digest, NetJets, Tateer: The Tiger Woods Dubai, TLC Laser Eye Centers, Upper Deck and his wife Elin.