Olympics could take golf to new places

It’s not that this is golf’s first dance with the Olympic Games, and there are pros and there are cons. From his fishing boat in Wyoming, where the brown trout were striking, Billy Payne spoke enthusiastically.

“I’m excited about it. I’m an advocate of spreading the game around the world, and what better way than through the Olympic Games,” said Payne, the president of Augusta National, which one might describe as the heartbeat of golf in this country.

From his summer home in the Grand Tetons, Payne had hardly had time to digest the news from the IOC executive committee meeting in Berlin. And that Tiger Woods and Anika Sorenstam, among others, were among vigorous supporters. Exciting stuff to Payne, the man who had brought the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996.

Golf was on his hope list of events, and Augusta National would have been the site, although he was not yet a member of the club. But, opposition arose not only from Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the …

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After he left Atlanta the first time, Torre “grew up”

Joe Torre and the Dodgers were merely passing through our town, and Joe was not happy at all. “This is our only trip to Atlanta, three games against the Braves, then next week they come out to L.A. for four games.
“And that’s it. It’s not like we’re in the same league, like interleague play. Makes no sense, and it’s probably not going to change,” Torre said, resting behind the desk in the visiting manager’s office at Turner Field.

It’s coincidental that a record Torre holds should break into the news, that for hitting into four double plays in a game, when he was a New York Met. “I’d like to thank Felix Millan for making it possible,” he said impishly. “He singled four times in front of me.”

Torre has been carrying on a fractious relationship with this town since he was fat and l4, when he came to visit his brother, Frank, then the first baseman for the old Atlanta Crackers. Joe returned as the first Braves catcher when they relocated from Milwaukee …

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Note to Bud: Shoeless Joe is worthy of Hall of Fame

Out of Cooperstown the other day came a speculative story that Bud Selig might be softening on Pete Rose and his “lifetime” suspension from baseball. A Hall of Fame board of directors, including several former players — such as Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan — came out of the meeting in support.

On the other hand, the commissioner said he had nothing more in mind than “to review the matter.” And added, “I would remind you that he [Rose] voluntarily accepted a lifetime suspension” when Bart Giamatti laid the wood to him. Giamatti died nine days later, thus removing from the office the best man whoever held the title. Later, there was a report that Commissioner Selig was into his waffling act again, at which point I might suggest that while he’s waffling, he might reconsider the case of the most controversial victim of a commissioner’s sword, Shoeless Joe Jackson.

It is a case I know well and which still comes up often in my life. It was 60 years …

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Cink stands tall and finds major success

At the time, it seemed a rather reasonable point of view, that some of us felt Stewart Cink hadn’t really bulldozed his way to classic heights in golf the way he should have. Could have.

Not that he should have been shaking Tiger Woods’ foundation, but at least Cink should have been right there knocking on his door.

There were grounds for that, if you feasted on events that took place here in Georgia, pre-Masters. In 1995, the Stanford University golf team came through on its way to a championship played at The Farm, near Dalton. In a team match played at Druid Hills, sort of a warm-up session, Georgia Tech competed against the Stanford team. Cink took out Woods, 3 and 2.

And he did it again the next week in the tournament at The Farm. Pretty darned impressive stuff, if you ask me. So I guess I let that influence my expectations beyond reality.

He wiped out the Nationwide Tour his first year as a pro. At Oakland Hills, I followed him most of two rounds and he finished 16th …

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Hometown hero’s story twists into unhappy end

Sad to say, that in this fairy tale, nobody lives happily ever after.

“The Natural” has been cast off by the team that brought him in from the suburbs, gloated over him through those first two seasons when he was a steady producer, and then, suddenly, when he lost his game, there was no one to help him.

So Jeff Francoeur went searching on his own. I don’t understand how it came to that. Neither do I understand just why a hitting slump can’t be cured like the common cold.

At any rate, as the season ended last year, Francoeur had made arrangements to go to Texas and spend some curative time with Rudy Jaramillo, the Rangers hitting coach. No guarantee came with it, but Jaramillo had worked wonders with some of Francoeur’s friends and Jeff was in a listening mood.

Mark DeRosa was one, rejected by the Braves, signed by the Rangers and under Jaramillo, as the story goes, found a swing that eventually led to a $13-million contract with the Cubs. Then Mark Teixeira passed …

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It’s nice having Turnberry back in the rotation

In wartime, Turnberry was a training field for the Royal Air Force, and traces of the runways may still be found there. It was years, though, before this scenic bluff on the Irish Sea, in the county of Ayrshire, became a golfing resort. It was years later that the Royal & Ancient finally included Turnberry in its British Open rotation. And it has been 15 years since the Open last visited, which is somewhat out of the ordinary.

Mainly, this is because Turnberry is kind of a “wildcard” in the established rotation that includes St. Andrews, Troon, Muirfield, St. George’s, Lytham and St. Annes and Carnoustie. The Championship is played on the Ailsa course, named for a domed rock that sits about 10 miles offshore.

And it might be said that it was the scene of the most memorable Open played in many a memory. Books have been written on it.

The year was 1977, my first Open, memorable at first by the pairing of Arnold Palmer and Sir Henry Cotton, who may have been a few years shy …

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From 22nd round to top prospect, Hanson learned art of pitching

If I’m wrong about Tommy Hanson, I’ve got a feeling I’m gonna have a lot of company. And leading the parade will be Frank Wren, now feeling the heat easing off from his clearing the Braves roster of the other Tommy (Glavine) to make room for this Tommy.

Get in line to join in the apologia. Not to say that just because this tree of a kid has beaten the Yankees and the Red Sox in a row that they’re dusting off a corner of Cooperstown to make room for him.

There is a lot of pitcher in that body of his. In the first place, he’s constructed like a pitcher, but even more than that, he manages his game like a pitcher who has been doing it since Cy Young. Six-feet-six, lean and lithe, expressionless, never giving vent to distress and equipped with an above-standard collection of pitches in his arsenal. But, let’s get back to the beginning.

He came out of a community college in Riverside, Calif., and could have had a scholarship to Arizona State. Here the Braves intervened. …

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Duval reaches out to Blackmon on road to recovery

In April 2005, Puggy Blackmon had a surprise telephone ring. The caller was David Duval, from whom Blackmon hadn’t heard in quite awhile.

“Can you come over to Augusta and meet me?” Duval asked.

Blackmon had been Duval’s coach at Georgia Tech and had worked with him at times since, but not recently. Instead, Duval had taken his golfing cares and woes to a number of “witch doctors,” as some of us are inclined to label those professionals whose specialty is “remodeling” Tour players — fairly or unfairly. Duval hadn’t made a cut in a major championship in three years and, for the most part, had disappeared from the game.

In other words, he had hit rock bottom. The Masters was coming up. He was running low on exemption and was turning to the coach he trusted most of all, although they hadn’t talked for the longest time.
“I was surprised,” Blackmon said. “You could have knocked me over with a feather,” and there he stood under the big tree at Augusta …

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Brace yourselves, but Braves should put Chipper on the market

OK, now it’s the Braves’ turn. After all those seasons of shoring up their roster with blockbuster trades in mid-season, at the expense of raiding the farm system, consider this: (Are you sitting down?) Tell the world they’re putting Chipper Jones on the open market. Anybody out there in need of a third baseman, or, on the American League side, a designated hitter?

I can hear all the gulps, and the screeches, and calls for my scalp. First place, forget where you saw this. This is not my choice at all, but considering the direction the Braves have taken the past four years, the lock is running low on sentimentality. Sure, Chipper is the face of the Braves. And the voice. He speaks for the team when anyone is looking for an opinion, or reaction to a news event. All of us seek him out, and he responds in his even baritone voice. He never lets you down. So to offer him for trade, hang him out there like a piece of meat for swap, a dreadful thought.

But think again. He …

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Nicklaus’ comment motivates Woods

Tiger Woods found motivation from a source to win Memorial golf tournament. (AP)

Tiger Woods found motivation from a legendary source to win Memorial golf tournament. (AP)

Wait’ll you hear this: Guess whose swing advice Tiger Woods has been following? Not Hank Haney (he’s been busy with Charles Barkley). Not Butch Harmon. (They’re divorced.) Nor that moose of a caddie, Steve Williams.

None of the above. Jack Nicklaus, that’s who. Happened during a news conference at the Memorial, when somebody asked Jack what he thought about the progress of Tiger’s return from the disabled. Remember, the Masters and the Players had passed without a trophy. Now he had a round of 74 to face up to at Dublin, when Jack was put on the stand.

“If you look at his golf swing, I don’t think he moves out of the way of the ball like he used to,” the tournament host said. (Remember, he and Tiger had been paired in a Skins Game the day before the Memorial. Tiger had looked like best-in-show, but that was fun and games.)

“I think that’s probably protective, and that’s probably …

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