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Jan 11, 2016 | 06:38 am

Christy O’Connor Jr. (1948-2016)

Christy O’Connor Jr., age 67, died last Wednesday while on vacation in the Canary Islands. During a long career on the European Tour, the Irishman won four times, twice won the Senior British Open, and had two victories on the Champions Tour, yet his exploits were overshadowed by that of his uncle, Christy O’Connor Sr., who had more than 40 wins as a professional and played in 10 consecutive Ryder Cup matches from 1955-73. “Christy played in the shadow of his uncle,” said Tony Jacklin, “but he became a legend in his own right, especially in Ireland.” That legend was helped by Jacklin, who picked a 41-year-old O’Connor for the 1989 Ryder Cup team (he had made the team in 1975, going winless in two matches). After losing a foursomes match on the second day in his only team appearance, O’Connor wasn’t expected to bring much fight to his singles battle with a 29-year-old Fred Couples. But they were all square in the final fairway, O’Connor about 230 yards from the hole. “Put this on the green and I promise something good will happen,” Jacklin said to his man, who hit a 2-iron to 3-1/2 feet; Couples hit a poor 9-iron, chipped on, missed his putt, and conceded the hole to O’Connor, who famously looked up at the heavens and cried while being mobbed by his teammates. It was his first and only Ryder Cup point and was instrumental in Europe’s retaining the trophy with a 14-14 tie. His funeral will be tomorrow in Galway.

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Jan 08, 2016 | 06:43 am

The Wide, Weird World Of Golf

While the pros on the PGA Tour enjoy opening their season in Hawaii, think kind—and warm—thoughts about some guys in Sweden who found a way to make cold-weather golf even harder, by playing on ice skates. Just because their favorite course was frozen over was no reason to stay away, as this video shows. And if you think ice-golf in Sweden isn’t strange enough, how about the news that North Korea unveiled its first 18-hole course? According to UPI, state television introduced the course, which is in the capital city of Pyongyang, is laid out in the shape of the Korean peninsula, and charges about $100 a round in a country where the average monthly income is a dollar or two. Makes us wonder if subsequent reports out of North Korea of a seismic event that could have been a nuclear explosion were really the reaction to the country’s first three-putt.

 

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Jan 07, 2016 | 10:46 am

The Caddies Awaken

One of the larger pieces of off-course golf news to watch for in 2016 will be the “Caddies Lawsuit” against the PGA Tour. For the unenlightened among us, a group of more than 80 PGA Tour caddies have filed a class action lawsuit against the PGA Tour in hopes of gaining certain privileges, two of which are healthcare and pensions. Currently caddies are deemed independent contractors hired by the player themselves, meaning the Tour is not their employer and is therefore not responsible for either of those employee benefits. The next layer of the class action suit addresses the fact that caddies are required to wear bibs displaying Tour sponsor names without the caddie receiving any compensation. The caddies are prohibited from displaying sponsors of their own. The proposed class would include hundreds if not thousands of caddies, threatening the PGA Tour with hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The legal process is chugging along slowly, but keep your eyes on this case in 2016. Depending on the judge’s finding in the case, we may be seeing some noticeable changes coming to the Tour.

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Jan 06, 2016 | 09:55 am

Hawaiian Spirits

Kapalua's Plantation Course on the island of Maui, host site for this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The Buzz caught up with co-designer Bill Coore about the origins of the course. His partner, Ben Crenshaw, was in Hawaii playing Kapalua's Bay Course with Mark Rolfing, who brought Crenshaw up to look at the site. "He called me afterward and said, 'They're thinking about doing this course. It's really pretty. The land rises gently from the sea.' So I've got this picture in my mind—this was before you could text photos—and I fly out to see it. Mark takes me up there and the severity of the slopes and elevation changes leave me a bit speechless. I certainly didn't see any gentle slopes and Mark says, 'Well, we were up here in the evening and had a couple of Coronas.' I said, 'How many Coronas did you have?'" Coore adds with a laugh. After getting the job and coming up with a masterful routing that negated many of severe terrain features, "It rises gently from the sea" became a running joke during construction. Well, they don't call him "Gentle Ben" for nothing.

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