Golf Writer Andy Reistetter was in South Florida a few weeks ago for the LPGA Titleholders and had an opportunity to play the Gold Course at the Tiburon Golf Club, host to this week's Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout. Excited to be heading back to Naples this week, join Reistetter as he recalls his round on the Gold and gets excited to witness his first Shark Shootout starting on Friday.
Over its 24-year history Greg Norman has only won his own Shootout once, in 1989 with partner Steve Elkington.
He has missed playing only once in his namesake event, which was three years ago following shoulder surgery.
Norman became widely known as the Great White Shark in the early 1980s for his frenzied, aggressive, and vastly successful golf game.
On the other hand, the Tiburon Gold course is now 12-for-12 in consecutive years as host to the three-day event, which features two-man teams playing a different format each day: alternate shot, better ball and scramble.
Needless to say, the scores trend downward and the competition gets more exciting over the course of the event—that's why they call it a Shootout!
Defending champions Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele are trying to win back-to-back titles, something that has only been done twice in the event's history; the last time happened in 2004 with wins by the duo of Hank Kuehne and Jeff Sluman.
Brad Faxon and Scott McCarron were the first to do it in 2001. Last year Bradley and Steele shot a scramble 59 on Sunday to become the first tour rookies to win the Shootout. Norman will be teaming up with Fredrik Jacobson, a Shootout rookie who broke through with his first win at the Travelers in 2012.
Two of the 12 teams entered are especially interesting to note. One I call the "low-key sleeper" team of Vijay Singh and Jason Dufner. Sure to be a solid team if you can get them to come off the practice tee and head to the first tee. Talk about practice-range warriors and stone-faced competitors united!
Surprisingly, this is the first Shark Shootout for Vijay, who last played on an International Team in the President's Cup with Norman in 2000. Singh was on Captain Norman's team in defeat in 2009 at Harding Park in San Francisco. Look for Singh and Dufner to do well this week.
The other team is the Bud Cauley and Rickie Fowler, which I'm calling the "Cauliflower" team. Rickie, though soon to be 24 on the 13th of December, is the most youthful guy on tour. Fowler broke through for his win on tour this year beating Rory McIlroy with a birdie on the first playoff hole early in the year at Quail Hollow.
He nearly won THE PLAYERS the following week, finishing second by two strokes behind Matt Kuchar. Cauley is a rock star shooting his way straight to the PGA TOUR from college, same as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, without having to go to Q-School.
To date, he has eight top-10 finishes in 38 starts in his young career. Look for this vegetable pair to come out on top of the salad this week at Tiburon.
In the land of many courses, the two at Tiburon, both designed by Norman, have quickly made a name for themselves based on their unique design, excellent playing conditions and the notoriety of hosting the Challenge Season's top event.
The Gold debuted in 1998 with the Black, which is said to be the more challenging of the two, beginning in 2001; both are a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. The golf courses are surrounded by a gated community of the same name and there is a massive Ritz-Carlton overlooking the 18th green of the Gold. A PGA TOUR Academy, one of only eight, recently opened on site at Tiburon.
I played the Gold with two local Jims, who made the round fun and interesting above and beyond the excitement of playing the course. It felt a little like Augusta National, with no second cut (rough), a bit like Scotland or Down Under with the vertical sod-wall bunkers, and definitely Florida, with the coquina waste bunkers.
Though I would not have been much of a partner in the Shootout, I did manage three birdies and putted like a possessed demon, not intimidated by any shark or shark-infested waters. Though it has been a dry year in South Florida, the fairways and greens were well-watered, soft with a lot of grass three weeks before the tournament.
I am interested to see the course set up for the Shootout and what will surely be "firm and fast" playing conditions.
The field is a "Who's Who in Ryder Cup Golf," with 2012 European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, American Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III and 2008 American Ryder Cup host and hero Kenny Perry.
No golfer has played in more Shark Shootouts than the Shark himself. Mark Calcavecchia is second in appearances with 18. Steve Elkington and Peter Jacobson are next in appearances with 16. Calcavecchia is partnering with Mike Weir this year. Elkington last played in 2007, Jacobsen in 2005.
Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker will team up for the fifth consecutive year. They won in 2009.
Chris Berman is in the house, participating in the Pro-Am on Wednesday and Thursday.
Looks like my first Shark Shootout at Tiburon will be the best one ever.
Look for television coverage on The Golf Channel on Friday and with NBC Sports over the weekend.