It's all relative for Lance Armstrong. The disgraced cyclist, who admitted to doping throughout his seven, now-vacated Tour de France wins, claims he follows the letter of sporting law to the same extent as his peers. And maybe that speaks highly of golf?
In an essay for Golf Digest, Armstrong writes he is drawn to golf because of its honor code -- the opposite, he says, of what he found in cycling.
"Cycling, it was the Wild West. Nobody considered doping cheating," Armstrong wrote. "It was an arms race where absolutely anything went, and it was every man for himself. You might consider me the last guy to have anything to say about cheating, but golf is different. I love adhering to a code of honor that we in cycling didn't have. If I moved my ball in the rough and got caught, I wouldn't just regret it, I'd be heartbroken forever. When I think about reform in cycling, I think about golf."
It seems clear golf is an instrument in Armstrong's self-justifying talking point that everyone in cycling dopes. If everyone did it, why couldn't Armstrong, right? It was just a subterranean level playing field. That's a reprehensible rationalization.
On the other hand, golf's honor code, at least in competition, again proves a draw, even if for one of the most ethically challenged athletes in modern history.
Since admitting to doping to Oprah Winfrey in an interview televised in January 2013, Armstrong's played quite a bit of golf. In a mid-January interivew looking at the one year since that sit-down, he said his handicap was down to a 9 index, meaning he shoots right around 80 for an 18-hole round.
Clarkie Carroll has been through a lot in the last year. The now-12-year-old endured 10 long months of chemotherapy to treat a rare bone cancer that robbed him of half of his right femur.
Thankfully, he is now cancer free and back to playing golf. But Carroll is more than your standard-issue junior talent. The kid's got a growing trick-shot repertoire. So the folks at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina teamed up Carroll with viral trick-shot sensations, the Bryan Brothers, to film some action around Thanksgiving.
Carroll, whose grandparents live off of Pinehurst No. 7, and his family hope the video can raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
They say golf is a game you can play for a lifetime. So long as you're upright and swinging, that means you have a chance to make an ace, just like 103-year-old Gus Andreone did in Florida on Wednesday.
Andreone, the oldest member of the PGA of America, made the hole-in-one at Palm Aire Country Club in Sarasota, Fla. He used a driver from the green tees on the 113-yard 14th hole at the Lakes Course.
"I hit it solid and the ball then hit the ground about 30 yards from the green and kept rolling, rolling and rolling," Andreone said, according to PGA.com. "It fell into the hole, which was cut on the right middle part of the green. Miracles do happen once in a while."
Andreone, who now has eight lifetime aces, may well be the oldest man to have ever recorded a hole-in-one. The apparent prior record holder was Elsie McLean, who made a hole-in-one at 102 years old in 2007. Andreone's first ace came 75 years ago in 1939. His last one before Wednesday was sometime in the 1990s, on the same course's 17th hole.
It certainly takes skill to make an ace, much less eight of them, but it's hard not to wonder if some people are just plain lucky. Andreone seems to be -- not only with the aces, but three lottery wins in his life.
Tiger Woods was on hand Tuesday in Mexico as, for the first time, a course he designed opened for play.
El Cardonal opened at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, the second course at the residential resort, alongside a Davis Love III design, called the Dunes Course, that's already ranked among the best courses in the world. Woods' course is a contrast to Love's links-inspired design along the Mexican coast. The 14-time major winner borrowed from his California roots in designing this course.
Woods' aim with El Cardonal, named after the ranch that previously occupied the property and not some variation on his alma mater Stanford Cardinal, was to be challenging for superior players but enjoyable for anyone. That means angles play a big role in scoring well, but wide fairways and openings to the green from the fairway make the course playable for any skill level. It's a reflection of Woods' attention -- what could be called an obsession -- with what he calls "lines," knowing the angles to best attack holes.
While it plays 7,300 yards from the championship tees, El Cardonal has five tee box options to keep any player engaged throughout the round.
"I designed El Cardonal at Diamante to make you think," Woods said. "You must be willing to weigh risks and make smart choices. Proper strategy will provide the best opportunity to score. The biggest compliment I can receive after you play my course is that you want to play it again."
Dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean and Sierra de la Laguna mountains will certainly keep Diamante residents coming back for more, but, for most, they'll never touch El Cardonal. They won't have much luck, either, with Woods' first design in the U.S. to open. Bluejack National, near Houston, is a total Woods redesign of the course formerly on the property and will be a fully private residential community and golf club.
Nevertheless, El Cardonal represents a big win for Woods' firm, representing the first time one of his designs went all the way from conception to open.
In 2006, Woods was commissioned (and reportedly paid $50 million) for his first design, Al-Ruwaya in Dubai. However, the global financial crisis hit the United Arab Emirates, leading to the project's halt in 2009 and indefinite suspension in 2011. Woods was also hired to design a course for The Cliffs development in North Carolina, but the project stalled long ago. The same was true of another Woods course slated to open in Mexico.
El Cardonal represented a second chance for Woods to share his vision in Mexico. Woods will get another crack on what amounts to the same plot of land in Dubai, as well. He'll be designing Trump World Golf Club, Dubai, as part of a rekindled effort to develop the same property where his first design was to debut.
One of the biggest knocks on how the PGA of America handles the Ryder Cup is the lack of continuity from one captain to the next.
Ben Hogan was the last man to lead the U.S. into consecutive matches, back in 1947 and '49. While there's some discussion from one administration to the next, the degree of knowledge sharing really depends on the relationship between the incoming and outgoing captain -- and how receptive the new captain is to suggestion.
Another problem is the PGA of America's election cycle. Its membership elects a new president in a two-year cycle that lines up with Ryder Cup years. While the organization plans the elevation of its officers all the way to the presidency, each president has their own biases in identifying a good Ryder Cup leader.
Meanwhile, the Europeans all sing from the same hymnal. Future captains get to serve as understudy vice-captains. Past captains come back to help their buddies as assistants. There's a committee of players and prior captains that pick future leaders. It's easy to see the value of a shared philosophy: eight wins in 10 Ryder Cup matches.
Could the U.S. benefit, then, from a single person -- not a temporary, 11-person task force -- whose sole job it is to oversee the PGA of America's approach to the Ryder Cup?
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas thinks so, looking at the example of USA Basketball as proof.
“I think there’s a lot that can be learned from what USA basketball has accomplished in a 10-year period,” Bilas said this fall to Golfweek.
After embarrassing losses in the Olympics and other international competition, USA Basketball hired former Phoenix Suns owner and general manager Jerry Colangelo to the position of managing director. Since then, the U.S. has won Olympic gold in consecutive games and the last two World Cup titles.
Bilas knows the commitment made to Colangelo and his program made all the difference.
“Now people are saying, Oh, we’re just more talented," Bilas said, according to Golfweek. "Well, we weren’t saying that a few years ago. So it’s really changed, and I think the program that’s been put in place has been the primary reason why.”
Paul Azinger for general manager?
With a single poor choice of words at the 2014 Ryder Cup, Nick Faldo polarized the European golf community.
While serving as on-air analyst with Golf Channel, Faldo called Sergio Garcia "useless" during the '08 Ryder Cup, where Faldo was losing captain on American soil. Faldo explained Garcia was listless after his breakup with Greg Norman's daughter, Morgan Leigh, and wasn't of much use to the Englishman in the only European loss since the 1999 comeback at Brookline.
Faldo was resoundingly panned for the comment, which he apologized for later. That apology still wasn't good enough for many, including Ian Poulter, whose retort of Faldo incidentally lead to the ouster of former PGA of America president Ted Bishop.
Now, count 2002 Ryder Cup captain and '14 assistant captain Sam Torrance among those unhappy with Faldo. In an interview with Bunkered Online in the U.K., Torrance didn't hold back.
“To say that right in the middle of the Ryder Cup, what was the a***hole thinking about?” said Torrance. “The reaction in the team room was magnificent. The guys rallied round Garcia. [But] really, it was pathetic from Faldo. I’ve no idea where he was coming from with that stuff. ... He’s an a***hole. It was beyond belief that one of our greatest-ever players would come out with a comment like that. Garcia’s not a team player? Have a look in the mirror, pal."
Well, then. Not that the Europeans needed any help in walloping the Tom Watson-led U.S. team, but it sounds like Faldo sabotaged any chance of an American comeback.
If this is Bubba Watson's attempt to go all Beyonce and break free of the Golf Boys, he may be more like Michelle Rowland than Queen B.
Nevermind the Destiny's Child comparison.
Bubba Watson made a Christmas-themed rap video for a song he calls "Bubbaclaus," and it dropped on Tuesday. The song isn't all that great, really stretching the bounds of what would be considered rhyming. However, Watson did bring back his hovercraft golf cart -- or, Hovercart -- and employed an unknown guy to prance around in a Gumby costume, who also dunked while wearing a Kevin Durant jersey. (Watson and Durant met up this year at an Oklahoma City Thunder game.)
The video is a reflection of the contradiction that is Watson. Off the course, Watson's never been shy on social media, doing publicity stunts like this to curry the favor of fans. Inside the ropes, however, Watson couldn't seem less interested in appealing to fans. Watson who refused to participate in the revived long-drive contest in the 2014 PGA Championship, saying he didn't believe such folly had a place at a major championship.
"I'm here to win a championship," Watson said. "I'm not here to goof around."