Colbert-Murphy duo rise above the Legends
SAVANNAH, Ga. – Jim Colbert and Bob Murphy stormed from behind to win the Demaret Division of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in a sudden-death playoff over Frank Beard and Larry Ziegler on Tuesday. Here are 5 Things you need to know.
1. Colbert & Murph’s Magic: For months, Bob Murphy and Jim Colbert have been talking about playing together for the first time in the Demaret Division. But they were none too happy with a first-round 66.
“We turned 10 under into 6,” Colbert said.
Tuesday was a new day, and their games heated up along with the weather. The duo made eight birdies in the last 11 holes to finish with a flurry. Murphy planted a 7-iron within 2 feet at 17, then Colbert struck an 8-iron at 18 “close enough to be a gimme, if you’re not shaking in your shoes,” he said.
That wrapped up a 9-under 63 and a two-day total of 129 at The Club at Savannah Harbor. More importantly, it tied the first-round leaders, Frank Beard and Larry Ziegler, who lost for the second year in a row in a playoff.
“I said to Frank, ‘The last time you and I were in a playoff was in 1974 at Pinehurst. We both got beat by Johnny Miller. Never liked the guy since,’ ” Murphy said, laughing.
In the playoff, Murphy made quick work of things, knocking a pitching wedge at the 10th from 100 yards into the wind to 2 feet.
“I’m usually pretty good from that distance,” he said.
As full measure of his devotion, Colbert, 72, has skipped the Demaret Division, and kept playing in the Raphael Division for 60-plus until Murphy, 70, became eligible this time.
“I’m pretty good at picking partners,” Murphy said. “We’re both so competitive, and it’s all we can do to keep from betting while we’re playing with each other.”
2. Mum's the word on Liberty Mutual: Could the longest-running sponsorship in golf be coming to an end this week? Liberty Mutual has been the title sponsor of the Legends of Golf since 1978. That pre-dates the creation of the Champions Tour.
But Liberty Mutual is in the final year of a three-year contract to underwrite the tournament, and rumors are flying that this time the Boston-based insurer might not renew. The subject was addressed during Gary Player’s news conference after Monday's first round of the Demaret Division.
“I hope those are wrong,” he said.
When asked Tuesday after his round to elaborate on what he knew and the source of his information, Player said: “I was speaking out of turn. I just heard somebody say that it’s possible, and they’ve spent a lot of money on other things.”
Mike Stevens, the president of the Champions Tour, declined to comment. Paul Alexander, Liberty Mutual’s chief communications officer, said: “We’ve agreed that we are going to talk after the tournament is over and consider our options and talk to the Tour and see what’s next. We’re focused on delivering a great event this year.
"The tournament had been great for us with our customers and our employees. It’s just a great way to bring the different parts of our business together.”
It’s worth noting that David Long succeeded Edmund "Ted" Kelly as Liberty Mutual's chief executive officer and president in June 2011. Kelly, who signed the latest agreement to sponsor the event, also stepped down as chairman of the board of directors this month.
Count Jack Nicklaus among the pros who is both a fan of the company’s current advertising campaign (“Humans are their own worst enemy”) and its longstanding commitment to golf.
“I get a kick out of the commercials. There was a new one recently and I said, ‘Barbara, did you see that one?’ But they’ve been a great friend to golf, and we’re hoping we can keep them involved in the tournament,” Nicklaus said.
Mike Hill called the event the highlight of his golf season.
“I hope we still have this tournament next year,” he said.
3. Jim Ferree plays on for Miller Barber: Miller Barber wasn’t at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, but his spirit was ever-present.
“Miller and I shot 3 under today,” said Jim Ferree, who played solo in the two-man team event with Barber’s name on the scoreboard and finished in 12th place, ahead of eight teams.
Barber, 82, winner of 24 Champions Tour titles, has stomach cancer, according to multiple players who spoke with him recently, and is hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Ferree said that Barber underwent his first chemotherapy session Monday. Barber has battled health issues for some time now. He had three bouts with pneumonia this winter, and two weeks ago fell ill again. That’s when he learned his cancer had returned.
Ferree tried to call Barber on Monday night, but was unsuccessful in reaching him. Ferree's wife, however, emailed an image of the scoreboard with their names and standing, to Barber's wife, and he reportedly got a kick out of it.
Ferree said that Billy Casper was going to fill in for Barber as his partner, but Casper came down with bronchitis after the Masters, and his doctor advised him not to fly. So Ferree, who teamed with Barber to win the Demaret Division in 2002 and 2003, was a team of one, and he was proud of his performance.
“Our biggest rivals were Gene Littler and Don January,” he said. “One year, Gene made five birdies in a row against us. Well, we finally beat them.”
4. Trevino adds belly putter … and loves it: On Monday, Lee Trevino was so disgusted with his putting that he threatened to switch to a belly putter.
“You know I’ve got one in my room,” he said to his partner, Mike Hill.
How badly did Trevino's confidence in his stroke erode?
“I had the yips so badly with that little putter yesterday that I thought I had bleeding ulcers,” he said. “My belly was burning up so much that I thought I had eaten some jalapeno peppers.”
Still feeling the competitive tug of golf, Trevino put a TaylorMade Ghost belly putter in the bag for the final round and afterwards stressed that his putting was vastly improved.
“Now I see why they want to make this one illegal,” Trevino said. “It’s like cheating. I swear to God. This is the easiest thing I’ve ever seen to putt with, is that belly putter.”
Hill is no fan of anchoring.
“I always thought it was a push,” he said. “I didn’t feel like it was a stroke anyway. I have nerves just like everyone else. I think they need to get away from it.”
When asked whether Bernhard Langer, the Champions Tour’s leading money-winner, would fare as well without an anchored putter, neither Trevino nor Hill hesitated to answer.
“There’s no question he wouldn’t be playing like he is if it wasn’t for the long putter,” Trevino said. “It takes all the pressure out.”
5. "Mr. 59" gets quite a surprise: Al Geiberger has relived shooting his 59 at Colonial Country Club in Memphis at the 1977 St. Jude Classic countless times. But see it? Never. That’s because none of the networks broadcast the event. Two local stations had footage, but one had a fire, and the other just got rid of it.
“All these years I’ve told the story that I’ve never seen myself make the final putt to shoot 59,” he said.
Geiberger has a new story to tell of the mysterious third video, and it will be revealed tonight on Golf Channel’s “In Play with Jimmy Roberts.”
Geiberger shares the story: “A 22-year-old rookie announcer – I’m sorry, but I don’t remember his name now – was sent to the tournament with a cameraman. He was ready to leave the course. He got Gary Player and whoever was there. It was hotter than hell. Well the guy had moved 12 times since then. The last time his wife said, ‘Get rid of those boxes in the attic.’ So he went through them and found one that said ‘Geiberger’ on it. Well, he was a real golf enthusiast. He said, ‘Oh, my goodness. It’s the tape.’ He thought it could be dust by now. He took it to the studio and had it put on a disc.”
Golf Channel got wind of it and decided to surprise Geiberger during an interview they arranged with him to commemorate his special round.
“Right in the middle of our shoot this guy comes up to me and says, ‘You shot 59. Have you ever seen it?’ I figured this guy has already screwed up the shoot, so I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve got it.’ Let me tell ya, I had heard that one before.”
Then Geiberger was shown the video for the first time.
“Most of my kids were there to watch me and my reaction,” he said. “The one I wanted to see was the putt on 16. All these years, I swear that halfway to the hole I turned around and held my arms up like this (in a "V" in celebration). I did not see the ball go in the hole. And that’s exactly what I did.”
You can see the episode tonight with the never-before-seen footage of Geiberger’s 59 on the Golf Channel. Check your local listings.