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On the back roads of golf, tales from the tour

On the back roads of golf, tales from the tour

Dave Kindred, a preeminent American sports writer who has worked his trade for the better part of four decades, was walking down the right side of the first fairway at Kiawah Island with the final group at the PGA Championship when he mentioned he had been teaching a writing class to college students.

Like most great columnists, Kindred's strength is his power of observation, and he has tried to pass that along.

``The one thing I tell them,'' he said, ``is that if you really pay attention to what you're covering, you'll see something you've never seen before.''

He stopped and kneeled to watch Carl Pettersson, playing in the last group that Sunday with Rory McIlroy, hit his approach to the green. Pettersson was just inside the red hazard line, so he was careful not to ground his club. Brushing the top of the grass was OK.

Moments after his shot, he was approached by PGA rules official Brad Gregory and told there might be a problem.

In a bizarre development, Pettersson's club nicked a leaf on the way back, a violation of Rule 13-4c for moving a loose impediment in a hazard. After an exhaustive video review, Pettersson was given the bad news - a two-stroke penalty - on the fourth hole.

Pay attention and you never know what you'll see.

That much was true in a wild year of golf. Phil Mickelson lost his bid at the Masters by hitting two shots right-handed. Rory McIlroy was confused by the time zone and needed a police escort to get to the final day of the Ryder Cup on time. Tiger Woods never found his golf ball, was not penalized and still missed the cut.

Those have been well-documented. What follows is the 2012 edition of ``Tales from the Tour,'' the obscure moments that keep golf so interesting and entertaining.

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Kyle Stanley is a quiet man. This was a quiet celebration.

One week after he made triple bogey on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines and then lost in a playoff, he rallied from eight shots behind on the final day with a 65 in the Phoenix Open to win his first PGA Tour event. It was a remarkable turnaround. One week he faced the media after his meltdown and fought back tears. The next week he was a winner.

Stanley was invited to a Super Bowl party that night at the home of Jim Mackay, the longtime caddie of Phil Mickelson. He was late to the party because of the media obligations that come with winning. When he finally arrived, Stanley knocked and then walked in the door holding the oversized winner's check over his head.

He quietly placed it above the TV, and then sat down to watch the game, a player at peace.

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No other golfer spends more time with the media after every round than Ryo Ishikawa, who is treated like a rock star in Japan. When he signs his card, even when it's late in the day, it's not unusual for the 21-year-old to spend close to an hour fulfilling his media obligations.

That's where ``The Chair'' comes in.

His handlers have a white folding chair for Ishikawa as he endures two interviews with different television stations. A dozen or so reporters form a semi-circle around him as they wait and listen, occasionally jotting down notes. Then, it's their turn. They spent close to 15 minutes with Ishikawa after his round at Innisbrook, going over the clubs he used and shots he hit on just about every hole - this after a 73 that left him 12 shots out of the lead.

Finally, he was finished. He got up from the chair and walked around the clubhouse toward the parking lot. The Japanese reporters followed him, walking in a group about 20 yards behind. One of them was asked where they were going.

``Now we wave goodbye,'' the reporter explained.

Indeed, they stood on a sidewalk and waved as Ishikawa's car drove by them.

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Butch Harmon was talking retirement in the spring. He turned 69 this year. A Vietnam War vet, he has been teaching most of his life, working for Sky Sports and traveling the world, which is starting to take its toll. He worries about the day when his attention span is short or he doesn't care as much as he once did.

``It's not there, but it's coming,'' he said. ``I will never step away. I'll always teach. I love to teach.''

The next morning, he was on the range at Quail Hollow waiting for Phil Mickelson to arrive. Gary Christian , a 40-year-old PGA Tour rookie from England, walked over and introduced himself. Christian said he was fascinated to watch so many Americans use the leading edge of the club on wedge shots. They chatted for a few minutes and after Christian walked away, Harmon said, ``Who was that?''

Harmon nodded when told about Christian's back story, how he came to America on a college scholarship, supported himself by selling steak knives and toiled in the minor leagues for 15 years before finally making it to the big leagues.

Still no sign of Mickelson.

A few minutes later, Harmon walked over to Christian. He spent a few minutes observing, and then pulled a wedge from the bag and gave an impromptu lesson.

He'll always teach. He loves to teach.

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You've seen the sign at the baggage claim to check your luggage because some bags may look alike. That goes for golf travel bags, too.

Nick Watney and Angel Cabrera arrived in San Francisco for the U.S. Open about the same time, on different flights. Cabrera kept waiting at oversized luggage for his bag to come out, and he began to think the airlines had lost it. There was only one golf bag there, and it belonged to Watney.

That's when the light came on.

Cabrera's agent called the person in charge of U.S. Open courtesy cars and asked them to stop Watney on his way out.

Sure enough, Cabrera's golf bag was in his trunk.

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The relationship three-time major champion Padraig Harrington has with reporters is unlike that of any other player, especially the Irish media.

He was giving an interview to Greg Allen of Irish radio station RTE, and after they finished, Harrington began making small talk. He asked Allen, ``I heard you lost your sunglasses?'' Allen's shoulders slumped as he told Harrington he had misplaced his glasses and didn't know where to look for them.

Harrington didn't commiserate. He smiled.

``They're in my locker,'' he said. ``You left them behind the other day.''

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Sung Kang received elite training in South Korea's national program that is producing more and more top players, but he worked equally hard on his English and speaks beautifully for someone who has played the PGA Tour only the last few years.

Turns out he has been coming to America twice a year since 2002 to work on his golf, and he devoted just as much effort to the language.

In Florida? California?

``Dallas,'' Kang said. ``I went to the Hank Haney schools, so I would work with Haney and learned English there in Texas.''

Some things, however, still get lost in translation. Kang was asked if he ever bought cowboy boots from all that time spent in Dallas.

``No,'' he said. ``I don't really like the NFL. I'm more of a Lakers fan.''

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The British Open has a massive scoreboard in the press center where a group of volunteers, most of them women in their early 20s, move ladders on rails from side to side as they post the score of every hole for every player.

Press officers often check to see which players they should bring in for interviews the first two rounds as the leaderboard is taking shape. In the second round, Adam Scott had a 67 to get within one shot of the lead with several players still on the course.

The announcement over the intercom: ``Can we see a show of hands for Adam Scott?''

Six young women posting scores all raised their hands.

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About two dozen fans waiting for autographs behind the ninth green on the Magnolia Course at Disney got more than they expected. Brian Harman emerged from the scoring trailer after the final PGA Tour event of the year and said, ``Who's left-handed?''

One man came forward, and it turned out to be his lucky day.

Harman went over to his bag, removed all the irons and handed them to the fan. Turns out Harman wanted to try something different at Disney, so he used irons with graphite shafts. He described it as the worst ball-striking week he had all year.

``I just wanted to try some different stuff,'' Harman said. ``And now I know what was not the answer.''

No other sports organization comes close to the amount of charity produced by the PGA Tour. Harman took it to a new level.

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The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

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USA TODAY Sports

The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

Congratulations! You just got a new job. There’s just one catch: it’s in a new city.

Oh, and by the way, you start tomorrow. Good luck.

That would be a pretty big shock for anyone, but it is the reality that hockey players constantly face and one that is exacerbated as the trade deadline approaches.

“I know fans and media get really excited about it, but they're not the ones that have to pick up and move their families,” Brooks Orpik said following Sunday’s practice. “I think players are looked at as kind of objects at times, just a number. People don't know there's a human side to trades.”

This season’s NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Monday. Until then, every locker room faces a degree of uncertainty.

RELATED: KEMPNY GETS QUICK PROMOTION TO THE TOP-FOUR

Almost no player or prospect is untouchable. Even if there are no rumors surrounding a team or things seem set, the threat of a trade hangs over the heads of the players like the sword of Damocles until the deadline finally comes and goes.

Even for those players who know they won’t be moved or who can’t be moved because of various clauses in their contracts, it still remains a stressful time as they could still see friends shipped to another city.

“I think what happens on that day is all the players, as soon as they get off the ice at morning skate, they're all looking at their phones and trying to see what happens,” Barry Trotz said. “They want to see what happens around the league.”

Sure, a player can go from a last place team to a contender. On the surface, they should be happy. Behind the scenes, however, midseason trades always carry family implications.

“It's tough on guys,” Orpik said. “Guys have kids in schools or have roots in the community of the teams they play for. As fun as it is for some people, I think as players it can definitely be nerve-wracking for people.”

MORE CAPITALS: TRADE TO CAPS POTENTIALLY OFFERS JERABEK WHAT HE NEVER GOT IN MONTREAL

When those trades do happen, they obviously can throw a player’s life upside-down.

For those players who are not traded, the team has to adjust both to losing familiar faces and to embracing new ones into the locker room.

“When someone comes into a new group, it's not much changed except for obviously a new piece,” Jay Beagle said. “But it's definitely harder on them so you try to make it as easy as possible on them.”

Thus far, the Capitals have added defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek over the past week. While both trades were done in exchange for draft picks, Taylor Chorney was a casualty of the trades as he was placed on waivers to make room for the new additions and was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It's tough losing guys, especially guys that are well-liked in our room,” Orpik said. “Taylor Chorney is a really well-liked guy so I think that impacted us a little bit.”

On Monday, fans, analysts, players and coaches alike will all be frantically checking their phones looking for the latest trade news, but while the deadline brings excitement for fans, it bears very different feelings for the players involved. Those players are people working a job and those trades mean uprooting their life in a matter of days. Regardless of whether a player is better off in terms of the team situation, there is still a human cost to doing business.

“It can affect certain guys because their names are obviously spread all over the place,” Trotz said. “They're human too. They pretend to not hear it, but they do.”

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Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

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Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

After two games, it looks like Michal Kempny is already moving up in the lineup.

At Sunday’s practice, Kempny played on the team's second defensive pairing, lining up on the left of John Carlson. Previously, the Czech defenseman had been playing on the right of Brooks Orpik. The move to the left allows him to play on his natural side as he is a left-handed shot.

Here are the pairs from Sunday’s practice:

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Christian Djoos
Jakub Jerabek – Madison Bowey

Acquired on Monday from the Chicago Blackhawks, Kempny has played in two games for the Capitals and has received glowing reviews thus far.

“He's a really good pro, that's what sticks out,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He takes care of himself, he works at his game off the ice and with the guys, he has fit in very well.”

RELATED: THE TRADE TO WASHINGTON OFFERS JERABEK THE CHANCE HE NEVER SEEMED TO GET IN MONTREAL

“I've gotten to play a little bit with [Kempny] the last couple games,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think he's a guy that, he moves pretty well and he moves the puck pretty well and likes to keep things pretty simple. He's very consistent and predictable so he's very easy to play with.”

When the Capitals first acquired Kempny, it seemed like the best fit for him would be alongside Carlson. It’s a natural fit with Kempny being a left-shot and Carlson a righty. It also bumps down Christian Djoos to a third-pair role which is preferable to having a rookie in the top-four come the playoffs.

Should Kempny play well with Carlson, that would likely solidify Washington’s top two pairs. The Orlov-Niskanen pair was not going to be changed and Carlson was going to be on the second pair. The only question was who would ultimately play with him in the postseason?

The third pair, however, remains a work in progress.

The Caps will have to wait at least another day for the debut of their second recent acquisition as Jakub Jerabek cannot yet play due to visa issues and will miss Monday's game, reports Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Considering the issues Washington has had on defense, they would not have brought in another defenseman just to be a healthy scratch. He will get his shot to earn a spot in the lineup.

With two new defensemen in tow, obviously the team will need to experiment over the next few days and weeks to find the right combinations.

“We're going to have to probably spend at least the next 10 to 12 games doing that and then we'll have to sort of settle in,” Trotz said. “With eight defenseman, you sort of want to see which guys you’re going to play and who to play as partners and sort of a little bit of ranking. If someone goes down, who's filling that extra role?”

MORE CAPITALS: WHY THERE'S NO REASON FOR CAPS FANS TO WORRY