Agent: Tiger still undecided on Masters, report that suggests otherwise is “comical”

After withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic, Tiger Woods’ status for the Masters is still up in the air.

We’re less than three weeks away from the Masters, and it’s still unclear if Tiger Woods will play or not.

This “will he or won’t he?” isn’t new regarding Woods and the season’s first major. He missed the 2014 and ’16 Masters with reports coming in all along the way about his health and practice regimen. This year appears to be no different.

On Friday, Golf Digest released a report with sources claiming Woods hasn’t been able to play or practice since back spasms forced his withdrawal from the Dubai Desert Classic. Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, offered the following rebuttal to the Golf Channel where he specifically mentions the author, Brian Wacker.

“I have no idea who Mr. Wacker’s really close sources are,” Steinberg said. “I can tell you this, nobody spoke to him; so how he could know something that Tiger and I don’t know is comical. I talked to Tiger four hours ago on the phone. We’re not in a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters now. He’s gotten treatments and is progressing and hoping he can do it. There’s not been a decision one way or the other. I couldn’t give you a fair assessment, but to say it’s doubtful is an absolutely inaccurate statement.”

The most interesting takeaway: Even though the opening round of the Masters is 19 days away, Woods isn’t in “a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters.”

Steinberg was also asked about Woods’ practice routine, and he said, “I don’t want to talk about specifics yet. When we’re ready to get into that, we’ll disclose it. He’s working hard at getting better, he’s working hard at progressing.”

Woods will be in New York City on Monday to sign copies of his new book. If you’re in the area, you can go straight to the source and ask him about his Masters plans yourself.

courtesy of Coleman McDowell (golf.com)

Tour Confidential: Do pros owe it to Arnie to play Bay Hill this week?

Arnold Palmer talks with Justin Rose just off the 18th green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2016.

Only 10 of the top 25 players in the World Ranking will tee it up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which prompted Billy Horschel to tweet: “Disappointing. Totally understand schedule issues. But 1st year without AP. Honor an icon! Without him wouldn’t be in position we are today.” While the turnout might seem underwhelming, only nine of the top 25 played last year at Bay Hill. Do the pros owe it to Arnie to play at the event that bears his name? Or is a cramped schedule that features a couple of WGC events in the run-up to the Masters to blame?

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): It would certainly be nice to see a bigger turnout from the top-ranked players, but the rerouted “Florida Swing,” which now passes through Mexico City for a WGC event, throws a wrench into travel plans for the top 60. Arnie deserves all the tributes that can ever be given, but players also need to do what’s best to prepare for Augusta. The API is in a tough spot on the calendar. Hopefully it can slide to a friendlier week when the Tour re-works the schedule.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF (@JoshSens): I hate to drift into the area of moralizing “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” but this was a big symbolic miss for professional golf, to say nothing of a blown PR opportunity. Yeah, schedules are tight, but these guys had plenty of time to adjust theirs. When Palmer passed away, it could have been a time for everyone to do everything they could to show up at the first one. A big show of force in support of the man who did so much to shape the game. I understand the idea of gearing up for the Masters. But there was a time when gearing up for the Masters meant showing up in Augusta and playing practice rounds. What’s wrong with that?

John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar (@johnwould): Players simply cannot play every event, especially with the Masters on approach. The top players set a schedule that gives them the best chance to compete at courses that fit their game, as well as in terms of being in the right frame of mind and physical condition to compete at the Masters, and all of the majors. Would it be wonderful if everyone got together to play at Bay Hill this year to honor Palmer? Sure. But the schedule is very cramped, and you can’t blame the guys who don’t play.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The best way to honor Arnold is to be genuine with fans, play with some flair (if you got it!), talk to the writers (and the TV people) and remember that the game made you, not vice-versa. Going to Bay Hill is a one-off gesture of no particular consequence.

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF (@joepassov): I’m torn here. The same thing happened at the AT&T Byron Nelson a few years back. When Byron was alive, all the top stars showed up at his tournament, even though there were few fans of the host course, simply because they had so much respect for the man himself. After his passing, the top names stayed away in droves. I’m almost persuaded by JW’s argument that the players need to do what’s best for them and their careers, especially in regards to the Masters run-up, but ultimately, I’m with Josh on this one. At least show up this very first year after the King has left us, pay your respects, and whatever you do in 2018 and beyond, fine.

courtesy of Golf Wire

Phil Mickelson thrills crowd with over-the-trees shot

Phil Mickelson had some high-flying thrills for fans during Round 3 of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

We’ll never get tired of Phil Mickelson doing Phil Mickelson things. He didn’t disappoint during the third round of the WGC-Mexico Championship, either.

Mickelson treated crowds to two chip-ins for birdie earlier in his round, but it was his high-flying tree shots that really got the fans riled up.

Sitting one shot off the lead at the turn, Mickelson sent his tee shot on the 10th way left towards an adjacent fairway. But upon going to search for his ball, neither he, nor caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, nor officials could locate it. It was determined that a fan had picked up his ball, so Mickelson was free to take a drop without penalty. The challenge? There were rows of people and impossibly high trees in the way.

No problem for Mickelson. He sent his second shot high over the top, landing it just feet away from the hole. Unfortunately, he missed his birdie putt — but the par save was one for the Lefty books.

courtesy of EXTRA SPIN STAFF

UCLA Bruins Have Bel-Air Country Club Edge When It Comes To 2017 U.S. Amateur

The iconic swinging bridge at Bel-Air

A winding five-mile stretch along iconic Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles leads from one historic golf club to another for the 312 competitors who will tee it up in the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship this August.

And the fact that Bel-Air Country Club and The Riviera Country Club will serve as stroke-play co-hosts for the United States Golf Association’s oldest and most prestigious amateur championship is enough to get the adrenaline flowing every time the UCLA men’s golf team practices during the season.

That’s because every UCLA golfer who qualifies for the 2017 U.S. Amateur will have a wealth of course knowledge and strategic advantages over his fellow competitors.

“We play Bel-Air two to three times a week, and we probably play Riviera a couple times a month,” said Derek Freeman, in his 10th season as the Bruins golf coach. “So we know the courses extremely well. . . .I think any of our guys on our team will have a great opportunity (to advance) if they qualify. That knowledge would definitely be an advantage.”

That will be especially true at Bel-Air, which has been the primary home course for UCLA golf teams for more than 50 years, not surprising considering that longtime Bel-Air head professional Eddie (“Little Pro”) Merrins also was UCLA’s golf coach from 1975-88.

Designed by the renowned George C. Thomas and William P. Bell and opened in 1927, Bel-Air Country Club is a 6,729-yard, par-70 layout with world-class routing that expertly weaves through four different canyons. There are tunnels to navigate and a distinctive white swinging bridge leading from the tee box on the par-3 10th hole that traverses a huge ravine on the way to the green. Fittingly, the elevated tee on the par-5 first hole features distant views of UCLA campus buildings across Sunset Boulevard.

The course previously was the site of two other USGA championships – the 1976 U.S. Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Senior Amateur — and has been the scene of colorful history through the years. Katherine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Conrad Hilton and Ronald Reagan all had homes on the course and, according to published reports, Howard Hughes once landed his private plane on a fairway to impress Hepburn, who was taking a lesson from one of the pros. The next day, Hughes was no longer a member.

“It’s a very interesting place, because you really have to know the golf course well to score well,” Freeman said. “It’s not to say you can’t go there and play well if you’ve only played it one or two times, but it’s got so many nuances because it’s tucked up in the canyons. The poa annua greens are very difficult, too – and that’s the defense of a course that’s not overly long with today’s technology and the way these young guys play.

“The key to the course is you have to drive it in the fairway. And if you do that, you have to control your second shot and hit it on the proper part of the green. . . .If you find yourself in difficult situations on the golf course – the wrong part of the green, the wrong part of the fairway and you miss it in the wrong spot – it just becomes a very difficult golf course really quick.”

UCLA junior Tyler Collier, the most experienced player on his team and a two-time U.S. Amateur qualifier, is looking forward to trying to qualify again, especially because of the familiar venues. He says his Bruins teammates are excited about the opportunity, too.

“It’s a topic of discussion that comes up quite a bit just because everybody wants to make it this year; everybody wants to play Bel-Air and Riviera,” Collier said. “I believe everybody on the team will try to qualify; no reason not to.”

Everyone who qualifies will play one round of stroke play at Bel-Air and one round of stroke play at Riviera, and then the top 64 advance to match play at Riviera. Local qualifiers in Southern California will be conducted in July at courses such as Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles, Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, Mission Viejo Country Club in Orange County and Western Hills Country Club in Chino Hills. Players in the top 50 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking are automatically exempt.

“For anyone on our team who makes it, it’d be a huge advantage, because we get to play Bel-Air a few times a week when we’re home (during the season),” Collier said. “We know the course better than anyone else who’s going to be playing in the championship. We know all the hole locations and all the breaks in the greens, so that would be an advantage for us. Course knowledge off the tee and around the greens is very important at Bel-Air.”

Another advantage for UCLA qualifiers, depending on tee times assigned, is knowing how to play the course under different conditions.

“In my opinion, the draw for the U.S. Amateur is going to be really critical for success,” Freeman said. “When you play Bel-Air in the morning, as opposed to the afternoon, there’s a big difference. In the morning, when it’s cooler, it plays longer and more difficult. In the afternoon it gets much warmer and the ball goes a lot farther, so the course plays much shorter. And so I think there’s an inherent advantage if you get a late tee time at Bel-Air in the afternoon.”

Collier echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“We usually play (practice rounds) at Bel-Air at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the course plays longer and softer than it does at 1 p.m.” he said. “So if you play a practice round early (in the U.S. Amateur) and then get a late tee time, you’re going to be playing two completely different golf courses.”

The course record at Bel-Air is 61 by USC’s Tom Glissmeyer during a 2008 team qualifying event. Former Lakers star Jerry West still holds the back-nine record of 28 while shooting a round of 63 in 1970. Collier, whose career-low at Bel-Air is 64, says the toughest holes on the course are the 200-yard par-3 10th, which can play as much as 30 more yards uphill; the 442-yard No. 2 and 438-yard No. 4, both par-4s; the 228-yard, par-3 13th and the long and narrow 584-yard, par-5 14th.

“And there’s a creek that runs through the middle of the back nine,” Freeman said. “It comes into play on five holes and can cause you problems.”

Of course, Collier and his Bruins teammates – including sophomores Cole Madey and freshman Hidetoshi Yoshihara — know all of the quirks and nuances at Bel-Air. That’s why they are all hoping for another “home game” in August.

“I think all of our guys will have an extra incentive to qualify,” Freeman said. “Tyler (Collier) works very, very hard on his game, and I think he’s got a great chance to make it and take advantage of knowing the course so well. Cole has been getting better and better each week; he’s going to have a great opportunity to make it. And then there’s Hidetoshi; even though he’s a freshman, he’ really starting to play some nice golf and I can see him having an opportunity.”

Yoshihara previously qualified for the 2015 U.S. Amateur while at Woodbridge High in Orange County, where he won the CIF state championship as a senior. Collier qualified twice for the U.S. Amateur – in 2014 at Atlantic Athletic Club, where he shot 76-81 and missed the cut for match play, and in 2015 at Olympic Fields in suburban Chicago, where he shot 73-77 and missed the cut again.

But Collier, a transfer from Oregon State, says those were beneficial learning experiences for him.

“I’d say I learned about myself and my game,” he said. “In those (championships), I wasn’t far off, but I was putting too much pressure on myself and trying to do too much. The first two days (of stroke play), you’re not trying to win the golf tournament; you’re just trying to get in the top 64 (for match play). I understand that now.”

All of the UCLA players also understand they will have a home-course advantage if they qualify for the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship. They would love to make that familiar five-mile drive down Sunset Boulevard in August (Aug. 14-20 to play for the prestigious Havemeyer Trophy which has been won by some of golf’s greatest players such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bob Jones.

U.S. Amateur tickets are available online at usga.org/usam. Tickets are $20 (single-day grounds) and $75 for a weekly pass. Military personnel and students receive free admission with valid ID.f

Courtesy of GolfWire

“Bones, hold the pin.”

At the par-5 finishing hole during the 2011 Farmer’s Insurance Open, Phil Mickelson did something that made everyone’s jaw drop.

He had his caddie, Bones, tend the pin.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What’s the big deal? He always tends the pin for Lefty with longer putts.”

But this wasn’t a long putt. In fact, this wasn’t a putt at ALL.

This was a 72-yard wedge, over water, to a hole tucked front left of the green. And Phil was so confident in his yardage, he had Bones tend the pin.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But when he pulled the trigger, Phil put that shot within a foot or two of the hole.

When asked later about it, this is how he responded:

“I wanted to give it 2 chances to go in. I’m trying to fly it in, and if it doesn’t fly in, it’s going to skip and I want to bring it back in. When I get a wedge shot of 72 yards, I can usually fly it to within a yard 95% of the time.”

Unbelievable.

But that’s Phil. His short game is one of the best ever, and that’s a HUGE reason why: he knows, without a doubt, his yardage with a wedge to within just a few feet.

So let me ask…do YOU?

Because if you’re struggling with your distances, here’s 3 quick tips to help you dial it in better.

* First of all, have all your lofts checked by a professional. Even a degree or two off can mean a big-time difference in how far you could be hitting.

* Then get on the range and hit 10 balls with each club to a specific yardage target, carefully monitoring how far each shot goes. Eliminate the shortest and the farthest shots, then add up the distances of the remaining balls and divide that number by 8 to get an average for every club.

* Finally, dial in your scoring clubs by marking off your distances from 8-iron to your highest lofted wedge and hitting 10 balls with each club to a target within those distances. After a few weeks, you should be able to get within 10 yards of each target pretty consistently.

This is how the pros like Phil do it. They hit thousands of balls to discover the perfect yardage for every club. And not with just a full swing either, but with half swings, knock downs, wind, muddy lies, sand, deep rough, hard pan, you name it.

And that’s a lot of work!

However, there’s an easier way to dial in your distances–without having to pound balls until your hands are bleeding and your back is screaming in pain.

It’s called the Swing Caddie, and you can find out more about this amazing new technology right here.

Colin Montgomerie: I wouldn’t trade my career for Tiger’s

Monty—the one and only Colin Montgomerie, the Hall of Fame golfer from Scotland—is the greatest active talker in the game today. A plus-five. Possibly better than Lee Trevino in his prime. Monty is 53 and playing the Champions tour fulltime and doing some work as an analyst for Sky Sports. In that capacity, he’ll return to Augusta in April. If he ever wanted to make golf-on-TV his main gig, he would immediately become the most insightful and incisive broadcaster in the game. But in the meantime, he enjoys playing too much. He has won three senior majors, and last year he won an event called the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, with a first-place prize of $375,000.

As he tours America, playing the senior tour out of his BMW 750 Li, he pontificates daily, with playing partners, with pro-am participants, with his longtime caddie, Alistair McLean, with the young woman behind the front desk at the Hampton Inn or the Ritz-Carlton or wherever he may find himself. His themes change from day to day and hour to hour. His subject one day might be what he discovered at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. The plains of West Texas. Brexit. Anything and everything.

On Wednesday, the same day that Tiger Woods canceled his pre-tournament press conference at the Genesis Open at Riviera, Montgomerie’s subject, at least for the better part of an hour, was Tiger Woods. Twenty years ago, Monty played with Woods in the third round of the 1997 Masters.

Through 36 holes Woods was leading at eight under and Montgomerie was second, three back. After Woods shot a Saturday 65 to stretch his lead to nine shots, Montgomerie, asked by a reporter if Woods could be caught, famously said, “There is no chance. We’re all human beings here. There’s no chance humanly possible.”

You don’t really interview Colin Montgomerie. You simply let him talk, which is what he does here. Ladies and gentlemen, in all his suigeneris glory, here is Colin Montgomerie:

“You have players out here, everywhere in golf, they are trying. Trying this, trying that. Tiger Woods, in his heyday, was different. He knew the putt was going to go in. His caddie knew it. We knew it. Our caddies knew it. The whole crowd knew it. The belief was massive. There was never a time you thought, Oh, he’s had it here. No.

“Everyone vilified me for the comments I made that Saturday night at Augusta. What I was saying is that we’ve just seen something very special here, that Saturday 65, to establish a nine-shot lead. The press was hesitant to believe that it was over, because [Greg] Norman had lost a six-shot lead the year before. Because now here’s this young lad, without Norman’s experience, he’s nine ahead, but you can lose from there. The press is thinking, It can happen again. Norman did it, and he’s a better player than Woods. And I was saying, ‘No, you don’t understand it—this guy’s different. Not only is he not going to lose, he’s going to win by more than nine.’ And he won by 12.

“It was something I had not witnessed. It was something nobody had witnessed. Golfers usually back into their first major. They don’t win by 12, in their first major as a pro. After shooting 40 on the front nine on the first day! I was trying to be as honest as I could with the press. I was saying that we are seeing something very special. And over the next 15 years that was proven to be correct. The talent, the focus, the vision.

“His caddie, Mike Cowan, was in amazement too. I said to Fluff on Saturday, `This is something else, isn’t it?’ And he agreed. That was on the front nine. On Saturday on the front nine I knew he was going to win.

“The length was only part of it. Tiger hit a driver and a 9-iron over the green on No. 2. I was short with a driver and a 4-wood.

“The pin was in the back left. Par-5. You go big on the 2nd, you have nothing. He had nothing. I said to Alistair, `He’s had it here, Al, hasn’t he?’ Because you can make 6 from back there in a hurry. The chip shot he played there! It was sublime. The press was focused on his length. I was focused on how he scored, how he got around the golf course, how he played chess around the golf course. How he got around it was different from how anybody else did. I had never imagined a second-shot 9-iron into the 2nd green. I was trying to leave myself an uphill chip shot for my third. Not flying a 9-iron to the flag!

“So I was trying to be honest with the press on that Saturday night. And they didn’t really quite take me up on it. But if I said to those reporters today, `Do you believe me now?’ They would all say, `You were right.’

“I do hope Tiger can come back. Everybody benefited from his run. I saw it in my life. How the game went from Palmer to Nicklaus to Trevino. Then Seve and Norman. But then it was taken to a whole different level by Tiger. And the marketing of the game has been hurt by Tiger being sidelined. Yes, we have a good set right now. Don’t get me wrong. The Jason Days, the Jordan Spieths, the Rory McIlroys, the Justin Roses, the Henrik Stensons, the Rickie Fowlers. They are good at what they do. But Tiger? Different, different. People talk about being A-list, about moving the needle. Well, he moved the needle. It would be good if Tiger could come back and contend. Just contend. Never mind win. Just to contend would be great.

“The economy was staring to hurt just at the time Tiger was losing his dominance, in 2008, ‘09, ‘10. The economy was slackening off and Tiger was slackening off and golf went through a bit of an odd time. It’s pulled out of that, but it needs that to continue.

“Before Tiger, I never thought about golf and injuries. I didn’t think about Arnold Palmer ever having an injury. I’ve never missed a round of golf for injury in my life. Everybody said it couldn’t last, the way Tiger went at it. The way he went into the rough and recoiled after the shot. If you spoke to any orthopedic doctor, they would tell you, `This is madness, what he is doing here. Madness! This can’t continue.’ And it didn’t. He broke down. He was an absolute stallion, on the edge. You see some football players in our game who pull up with a hamstring injury because they are right on the edge of fitness. With Tiger, the fitness thing got to a level where it was a wee bit too much.

“It hurt him, and it’s hurt a number of people. McIlroy is out for two months. Jason Day has had injuries. A good friend of mine on the European tour, David Howell, picked up Vijay Singh’s weighted club on the range and six months later he played golf again. He broke a rib or some such thing.

“All sports—save darts and maybe snooker—have a foundation, and it is the legs. The thought is, Let’s get our legs as strong as they can possibly be. You can’t get your legs strong enough. To me, we leave the upper body alone. A golfer has to turn his upper body. You have to be supple. You have to have feel in the upper body.

“Tiger became the best athlete in the world as a golfer. That had never been done. That sounds great. You certainly can’t knock his 14 majors. But as a sustainable entity, as a lasting entity, everybody said it was going to go, and it did.

“At that ’97 Masters, he was 6-1, maybe 170. Perfect. With that flexibility? That ability to turn? Thank you very much! What was wrong with that? He won the Masters by 12!

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Butch Harmon over the years. We do Sky Sports together at the majors. And I’ll say, `That’s the best I ever saw, Tiger in 2000, 2001, when he won his four majors in a row. And Butch says, `He tried to change things to get better.’ But he was at the top of the tree! Yes, you feel like you have to get better to stay there. But you have to be careful how you do it. It’s easy to be critical, but what he had was so fantastic. Look at the swing he had at the L.A. Open when he was 16 years old [in 1992]! Fantastic! But he was trying to stay ahead of the game in every way. He felt fitness was the key to this game. And people copied. Nick Faldo copied. Faldo got big through the chest. Suddenly, he couldn’t turn. No speed. The guy I think, in a God-given way, fell out of the cradle ready for golf was Dustin Johnson. His arms are three inches longer than they should be, which is great. But he’s so flexible. Flexibility is our key. Lack of flexibility is what stops you from playing. It stopped Faldo. It stopped Seve. It stopped Norman.

“What might Woods have done had the game never moved off the balata ball and the wooden wood? Many golf fans would say he would have won less. I believe he would have won far more. He has the 14 majors. Without the equipment changes, I believe he’d have well into his 20s now. Because now everybody has clubs where they can do what he could do.

“Two others lost out hugely to technology. Greg Norman was one. He was the best driver of the ball with the wooden club ever. He lost out when drivers went to metal and suddenly we could do what he did. He lost his asset. And the other was Seve. When Ping developed its L-wedge, with box grooves, we could suddenly do what Seve could do with a 52° club. He lost his asset too. Tiger had all that, in spades. And then we were given equipment that allowed us to do what he could do.

“I never won a major. Tiger won 14. But would I trade my career for Tiger’s? No. I started out this game a pretty good golfer and finished in the Hall of Fame. I feel I have overachieved. So how could I say I wish it were better? People will say, `Well, he didn’t win a major.’ And, yes, I would have liked to shut them up by winning one. But that’s my only regret, really. Great that I have won senior majors, which has quieted the odd person.

“I’ve made mistakes. We all make mistakes. But I’ve had a long career. I don’t think Tiger will be out here at 53. He might say, `I don’t need the money.’ But it’s not just money. It’s self-esteem. Self-esteem is huge in life. You walk a wee bit taller, having done something well. I like this life. I like meeting new people. I like the travel. I love the life. Whether it’s for everybody, I can’t say.

“If Tiger loved the life, I can’t say. For Tiger, I think there was a certain record in the back of his mind: 18, 18, 18. Or 19. Got to get to 19 majors. Whether he enjoyed the tour life, I don’t know. But that number was there—19. To be seen as the best ever. And really, he’s well beyond 19. There are the 14 majors, plus the 15 World Golf Championship events. In those, he’s beating 60 of the best players in the world! So to me, his number is 29. And then compare his 79 Tour wins to Sam Snead’s 82. Number 100 in Sam Snead’s day was a club pro who could beat Snead for a day, but never over four days. Today, No. 100 can win any week.

“Nineteen has been such a focus for him. If Tiger had his children with him fulltime, a wife, a settled home, he could have gotten to 18, to 19. I know from my own life how hard it is to play golf when your life at home is not settled. After that Thanksgiving night changed everything, he no longer had a private life. A private life by the term itself is a private life. You have a public life and a private life. And when the private life becomes public, it’s dangerous. It hurt. It hurt him. It hurt the game of golf.

“I know how difficult it is, when you’re not living with your children. I speak for myself, and I’m sure I speak for others. It’s hard to come out here and focus. Every par becomes a bogey. Every bogey becomes a double. You just about manage to get from a green to the next tee if you make a birdie. You make a bogey, and it all floods back. And you’re not focused on what you’re doing. You’re not focused at all. I feel for him that way. I do. I feel for any man in that situation. Whether it’s self-inflicted or not.

“I’m sure Tiger wants to be a committed father. His father was a committed father. And when you’re not under the same roof as your children, it’s damn near impossible. You make the most of it, but it’s not easy. I remember at the back of 18 green on Saturday at the ’97 Masters, Earl and Tiger. Tiger had just shot 65 by hitting a sand wedge into 18. There was a definite feeling of, We can do this.

“With my father, it was different. My father wasn’t as involved in my golf. Earl was about the focus golf took, the focus on winning, on getting to 19. My father was happy if I just made the cut. He still is! He’d say, `Oh, well done. You’ve beaten a lot of your peers.’ But when you win, you’re 10 feet tall. Your self-esteem is through the roof. That’s how it was for Woods after he won that Masters by 12. Being given an opportunity is one thing. But taking it is another. And he took the opportunity with two hands and he ran with it. Ran with it! Ran with it for 15 years.

“Now, Tiger’s sneezes, we all catch a cold. Every shot he hits is analyzed and over analyzed. And it must be difficult for him, because he knows that in his prime, he could beat these guys with one arm. To miss a cut by four or five shots must be painful for him.

“Going into the third round of the Open, at St. Andrews in 2005, I was paired with Tiger. The press said, `You’ve got a difficult pairing, you’re going out with Tiger.’ And I said, `Yeah, I’m not going to beat him driving the ball. He’s a better driver than I am. I can’t beat him with my iron play. I can’t chip and putt as well as he can.’ `Then what chance have you got?’ ‘The only chance I’ve got is that I can score lower.’ And I did. I shot 70, and he shot 71. And I did it playing my game. But he won that Open. Won it by four.

“The only win possibly greater than his ‘97 Masters was the U.S. Open in 2000 [at Pebble Beach], when he won by 15. But I put ’97 ahead of it. At age 21, by 12, in his first major as a pro, at Augusta? The world was like, What just happened here?”

Courtesy of Michael Bamberger (Golf.com)

Tiger Woods withdraws from Genesis Open and Honda Classic due to back spasms

Tiger Woods’s return to the PGA Tour has been put on hold once again.

Woods returned to the PGA Tour after an 18-month layoff at Torrey Pines, where he missed the cut for the first time in his career, and then withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic after an opening-round 77, citing back spasms.

On Friday morning, Woods posted an update on his website announcing that he would not be playing in next week’s Genesis Open in California or the Honda Classic in Florida, two events he had committed to play in earlier in the year.

“My doctors have advised me not to play the next two weeks, to continue my treatment and to let my back calm down,” Woods posted on his website. “This is not what I was hoping for or expecting. I am extremely disappointed to miss the Genesis Open, a tournament that benefits my foundation, and The Honda Classic, my hometown event. I would like to thank Genesis for their support, and I know we will have an outstanding week.”

On his SiriusXM PGA Tour radio show, Hank Haney, Woods’ former coach, offered his analysis of the news and thoughts on when we may see Woods again.

“?Clearly he’s not right. Clearly he’s still got issues and clearly the issues are bigger than they all just led on with just a little spasm and everything was fine and we’re all good,” Haney said. “He’s not all good. And he’s not fine. And his game is not fine. I clearly misread the Hero World Challenge situation where I thought, you know, he was looking great and his attitude was great and his body looked great. Now what does this do to this comeback? After Honda you have the World Golf Championship in Mexico. He’s not in that. Then you got Valspar, but the week after that is the Arnold Palmer. You can’t think you’re going to come back and play back-to-back, I wouldn’t think with these issues he’s had. Maybe he would, who knows. He signed up for four out of five. Then he’s got a World Golf Championship Match Play, he’s not in that. I don’t see him showing up to play that week in Puerto Rico, and that would be right after the Arnold Palmer. So, I mean, once again he’d have to be going back-to-back. I don’t see him playing Shell Houston Open. He’s never played there before, doesn’t know the course. He’s going to go there the week before the Masters? Who knows. Maybe he would, you never know. This is a different kind of comeback here and maybe it’s going to be a different schedule for Tiger. Or maybe he’s shut down again.

Maybe he’s shut down for a long time.  I’m not going to say forever because, hey, the guy could come back next year and be 42 years old and still have time, or the year after and be 43 years old and still have time.  But any way you slice it this is another setback for Tiger.”

Courtesy of golf.com

Jordan Spieth clashes with ‘scums’ seeking autographs at Pebble

Jordan Spieth didn’t appreciate the language some adults used in front of kids at Pebble Beach on Wednesday.

Jordan Spieth ripped professional autograph seekers after clashing with a few at Pebble Beach on Wednesday.

Spieth was coming off the 18th green and while he was signing a few autographs for kids he heard complaints from a few adults when he didn’t sign for them as well. Spieth later said he thought they were professional autograph seekers who would sell their the memorabilia online.

“So I turned around and one of them dropped an F-bomb in front of three kids, so I felt the need to turn around and tell them that that wasn’t right,” Spieth said at his press conference Wednesday. “And a couple of them were saying, ‘You’re not Tiger Woods, don’t act like you’re Tiger.’ I mean, it’s just like, Whatever, guys. You’re still trying to benefit off me and I’m not even Tiger Woods. So, you know, what’s that say about you?”

Spieth, who will tee it up alongside Jake Owen, Dustin Johnson and Wayne Gretzky to kick off the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Thursday, doesn’t think much of those would seek to capitalize off his signature.

“I’m not appreciative of people who travel to benefit off other people’s success. And just, we’re out here to — I enjoy signing and sign for kids whenever we get the chance,” he said. “And when these guys have these items that you’ve already seen online and people, we have — our team keeps track of that kind of stuff. And these guys that just have bags of stuff to benefit from other people’s success when they didn’t do anything themselves. Go get a job instead of trying to make money off of the stuff that we have been able to do. We like to sign stuff for charity stuff or for kids or — and if you ask anybody universally it’s the same way, it’s just, they frustrate us.”

Spieth said normally he would let caddie Michael Greller handle situations like this but his frustrations got the better of him.

“I was just a little frustrated at the end and I didn’t appreciate the language that was used and just some scums that just, it just bothered me,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Spieth expressed his frustration with professional autograph seekers. During last year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont, he called out “eBayers” he saw crushing kids in the crowd while hunting for autographs.

courtesy of Josh Berhow (Golf.com)

 

Sergio Garcia completes wire-to-wire win in Dubai

Sergio Garcia with the winner’s trophy after round four of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Sergio Garcia shot a final-round 3-under-par 69 to win the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday after holding the tournament lead since the opening round.

The Spaniard, who had never posted a top-10 finish in his previous seven Desert Classic appearances, finished on a 19-under 269, three strokes ahead of Open champion and top-ranked European Henrik Stenson (69).

Denmark’s Lasse Jensen, whose 65 was the low round of the day, finished tied for third with England’s Tyrrell Hatton (67).

It was Garcia’s first European Tour win since the 2014 Qatar Masters. In the interim, he also won the Byron Nelson Classic on the PGA Tour last year.

With his 12th European Tour victory, Garcia became the sixth wire-to-wire winner of the Desert Classic and the sixth Spaniard to lift the “Dallah” trophy.

Garcia is expected to move up to No. 9 from his current 15th place when the rankings are released Monday.

The 37-year-old started the day with a birdie and increased his lead to four shots, a cushion that seemed necessary given how tough the front nine of the golf course was playing due to cross winds. He held his nerve throughout before making a critical par save on the eighth hole after hitting his tee shot into the right desert, and then made another birdie on the tough par-4 ninth to ensure he stayed four ahead of Stenson.

The Swede made his move on the back nine, with three birdies and a bogey on the first five holes, while Garcia kept churning out pars. Heading to the 15th tee, Garcia’s lead was down to two shots.

But the Spaniard held firm on the par-3 15th hole. He hit a stunning tee shot to two feet for a birdie, while Stenson hit his over the green and failed to make an up-and-down for a bogey and a two-shot swing.

Stenson then got a closing birdie while Garcia missed his from 12 feet, narrowing the gap to three shots.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good ball-striking tournaments,” said Garcia, who led the greens in regulation stats for the week and was second in driving accuracy. “This definitely was one of them. I felt like my iron play was really, really good. Obviously my driver was very good, a couple of shots here and there. But you know, on a course of 72 holes, it’s going to happen.

“Nobody can go without missing a shot but this week was definitely a week where I felt very comfortable with my game. I felt like I was in good control of what I wanted to do with my ball flight and stuff. So I guess it showed up.”

Stenson, who won the tournament in 2007, said: “Obviously, I was chasing all day and I was trying to push, even though I didn’t play my best.

“With that birdie on 14, I was hoping I was going to be able to make it a bit interesting coming into the last couple of holes. If you’re one or two behind, with 17 and 18, a lot of things can happen . you can eagle and someone else can end up in trouble.

“We picked the wrong wind and I hit the wrong shot at the same time. Airmailed the green on 15 and led to bogey. And Sergio hit a good shot to three feet and then it was pretty much game, set, match.”

After completing its desert swing, the European Tour next moves to Kuala Lumpur for the Maybank Championship.

Dubai Round 2 suspended due to severe wind, sandstorms

 

photo twitter@EuropeanTour

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Shortly after Tiger Woods withdrew Friday, the Dubai Desert Classic was hit by strong winds that brought down some trees and forced the second round to be suspended.

Martin Kaymer and Rafael Cabrera-Bello, tied at 4 under after both shooting 69s, had the lowest scores after two full rounds. But George Coetzee was at 9 under after eight holes at the Emirates Golf Club and overnight leader Sergio Garcia was at 8 under.

Woods withdrew before starting his second round with back spasms.

Kaymer criticized the decision to suspend play.

“Hard to understand the difference between the morning play and now, therefore even more surprised about the decision @EuropeanTour,” the German wrote on Twitter.

Coetzee, however, supported the decision.

“We saw this one tree go down. You get a warning it’s about to collapse and start squeaking. I was walking under the trees hearing the squeaking and thinking, this could be me,” the South African said. “It’s a little bit dangerous out there with the trees collapsing and stuff. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.”

The best Tiger Woods-Super Bowl prop bets

It’s Super Bowl week, and that means one thing. Prop bets.

Sure, you can wager your hard earned money on what color the Gatorade poured on the winning coach will be or how long Luke Bryan’s national anthem will be. But we’re golfers – we need to bet on something we’re experts at. We listed some of the golf-related bets on the market below. Our favorite? Tiger’s fourth-round birdies versus total field goals made by both teams. For reference, there were two, one and two field goals, respectively, in the last three Super Bowls. Tiger’s last fourth-round birdie? August 2015. And it’s even money!

– Woods’ 72-hole score in Dubai (+27.5) vs. Tom Brady gross passing yards

– Woods’ fourth-round birdies (Even) vs. total field goals made by both teams

– Woods’ fourth-round bogeys (-1.5) vs. Matt Ryan touchdown passes

– Woods’ first-round score (-24.5) vs. gross yardage of Atlanta punter Matt Bosher’s first punt

– Hideki Matsuyama’s fourth-round score in Phoenix (-19.5) vs. yardage of longest touchdown scored by either team

– Justin Thomas’ fourth-round score in Phoenix (+21.5) vs. Julian Edelman receiving yards

– Phil Mickelson’s fourth-round score in Phoenix (+44.5) vs. Patriots’ total rushing yards

– Henrik Stenson’s fourth-round score in Dubai (-18.5) vs. Devonta Freeman rushing yards

Courtesy of Extra Spin Wire Service

Poll results: Answers to golf’s 18 toughest choices

Masters or Ryder Cup? Our readers overwhelming would rather head to Augusta than a Ryder Cup.

Every golfer loves a good debate: Tee high or tee it low? Jack or Tiger? Scotland or Ireland? But where do GOLF.com readers come down on these age-old questions? Over several days last week we polled you on 18 choices that golfers face, with the hopes of better understanding the psyche of the American golfer. More than 3,800 of you voiced your opinions, and some of the results might surprise you. (Zach Johnson over Dustin Johnson?!) The envelope, please!
1. In your ideal round, you are…

Walking: 64%
Riding: 36%

2. If you have time for one, your pre-round warm-up is at the…

Driving Range: 53%
Putting Green: 47%

3. When it comes to the rules, you play…

By the book: 60%
Fast and loose: 40%

4. Which of these two events would you rather attend?

The Masters: 81%
Ryder Cup: 19%

5. The greatest golfer of all time is:

Tiger Woods:  38%
Jack Nicklaus: 62%

6. With driver in hand, you prefer to…

Tee it high: 70%
Tee it low: 30%

7. If you can only carry one or the other…

Hybrid: 81%
3-iron: 19%

8. Would you rather drive it…

As long as Dustin Johnson: 49%
As accurate as Zach Johnson: 51%

9. If you could get one lesson, it would be from…

Butch Harmon: 74%
Hank Haney: 26%

10. Your dream golf destination is…

Scotland: 70%
Ireland: 30%

11. From the apron of the green, you’re pulling a…

Wedge: 30%
Putter: 70%

12. During a round, you’re…

Boozing: 24%
Abstaining: 76%

13. At the course your cell phone policy is…

In your pocket: 14%
In your bag: 73%
In your car: 13%

14. The ideal number of holes in one day is…

9: 3%
18: 72%
36: 25%

15.  In most rounds you prefer to…

Tee it forward: 65%
Play the tips: 35%

16. The most iconic par 3 in America is…

No. 7 at Pebble Beach: 30%
No. 12 at Augusta: 70%

17. When facing a risky approach to a par 5, you’re most likely to…

Go for it: 36%
Lay up: 64%

18. The most important question of all: At the turn, you’re gabbing a…

Burger: 24%
Hot dog: 68%
Wheatgrass smoothie: 7%

courtesy of Extra Spin Staff

 

Phil Mickelson on how Tiger Woods has changed

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods go way back as one of the most beloved and fiery golf rivalries of all time. But as veterans of the game, they’ve come to respect and like each other both as competitors and teammates. And according to Mickelson, that was no more apparent than at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck for a GOLF.com podcast, Mickelson practically gushed about Woods’ transformation off the course, especially in the Ryder Cup team room.

“He’s really fun to be around now,” Mickelson said. “He’s very thoughtful and detail oriented, but more than that, he’s been very approachable and helpful with a lot of the guys.

“I think for a number of years, he felt – and I don’t know this – but I think he felt as if he were to open up in these team events, he would be breaking down that aura that he’s built and the intimidation he’s built and could affect his career in some of these tournaments by that one week, and so has always been kind of held back or reluctant.”

According to Mickelson, Woods’ ideas during the Ryder Cup were instrumental in the game plan that helped deliver the Cup to the Americans after eight years of European domination. One example Mickelson mentioned was moving the tees back on par-5s when shorter hitters were playing, so they could take advantage with their strong wedge play. And, for the bigger hitters, moving the tees up so they could attack the green in two.

“I don’t know what it is but the last three or four years he’s been much more approachable and engaging with the guys and really fun to be around,” Mickelson said. “Guys grew up, on the team, idolizing him and watching him, and to have him support you and talk to you and be with you has been really fulfilling.”

It’s not just the personable Woods that Mickelson admires. Asked whether or not Mickelson thinks Woods will win again, he didn’t hesitate.

“Oh yeah,” Mickelson said. “He’s too good not to, unless physically something holds him back. He’d just out-ball-strike guys and he would win tournaments that way even not putting that great. He would win tournaments out putting everybody even if he didn’t strike it that great, because he was such a great putter and (had a) great short game. But when he did them both together, he just spanked everybody and won by 15 like the 2000 US Open.

“He doesn’t have to be the best he’s ever been at to win tournaments because his talent level is so high and I think it’s much easier to do it again than it is to do it for the first time.”

The Trump Tour: Behind Donald Trump’s Golf Empire

 

This story originally appeared in the June 7, 2007, issue of Sports Illustrated.

My assignment, as it first came down to me from on high, was to play Trump’s courses and write up the tour, and my goal at first was to avoid the owner.

Donald Trump, everybody knows, is a career .400 salesman, and I was afraid he’d overwhelm me. I had met him once, in 2002, when I was covering the season ending event on the LPGA tour, played at the Trump course in West Palm Beach, Trump International Golf Club.

The course looked beautiful, and by 2005 it was on the Golf Digest list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, in 84th place. But it was the kind of course for which, to borrow a phrase, I have unaffected scorn: crazy expensive to build and maintain, with a man-made waterfall, a man-made mountain and miles of cart paths. And apparently Trump was feuding with his contractors and not paying them, which may have accounted for the colossal clubhouse still showing exposed wires and (in places) concrete floors. Trump gave me a tour of his unfinished Taj Mahal with a lieutenant at his side.

We arrived in the grand ballroom where there were massive windows overlooking the course. Trump said to me, “My decorator says I need drapes on those windows, but I kind of like the unobstructed views of the course. What do you think?”

I figured the drape budget was gone. Trying to be polite, I said, “With those views of the course, who needs drapes?”

Trump turned to his lieutenant and said, “The guy from SI has spoken — no drapes!”

It was as if Ely Callaway, another scratch marketing man who ultimately figured out a way to leave his mark on golf, was back from the dead.

Last August, I called a man named Ashley Cooper, described by an editor as “Trump’s golf guy.” There are five Trump clubs, and four of them are private, so I’d need help to get on them. I told Cooper my hope was to play the various courses with just one friend and that we’d pay for everything. I wanted to see the courses myself, and not through the prism of Trump. Cooper couldn’t have been more accommodating. Naturally, there was a reason he returned my call so promptly: A big spread in SI about Trump’s properties could be useful. Still, he knew what I needed.

When I showed up at the Trump National Golf Club, in New York’s Westchester County, Trump was waiting in the XXL clubhouse. He was wearing a red baseball cap with the gold logo of his club on the front and one of those Little League adjustable straps, with the holes and the little plastic pegs, in the back. It was a rainy, gray day, but Trump was ready to go. We were a fivesome: Trump and me; Trump’s friend Louis Rinaldi, who is in the pavement business; a young pro with LPGA aspirations named Bri Vega; and my friend Mike Donald, a former Tour player.

Rinaldi, a lefthander with a lot of swagger and a handsy scratch golf game, built all the cart paths on the course. Trump made him a member of the club and gave him a locker in the same row as those of Trump, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Joe Torre. “Are these not the most beautiful cart paths you have ever seen in your life?” Trump asked Mike and me. “Look at this curbing. You won’t see curbing like this anywhere else. I can play with anybody, chairmen of the biggest banks, any celebrity I want to play with. But you know something? I’d rather play with Lou. You can take Lou anywhere.” Trump slapped me on the shoulder and said, “You understand.” He went off and played his shot.

It was clear that Trump loved his Westchester course, in the vicinity of Westchester Country Club, site of an annual Tour event, and Winged Foot, where Trump is a member. He talked about an underground pumping system, the millions he spent on a waterfall, how much Clinton enjoyed playing there, how the Tour would like to move the Barclays Classic from Westchester Country Club to his course. He described in detail how he defeated Rinaldi one year in the final to win the club championship, which is amazing because Trump looked like a golfer who could maybe break 80 and Rinaldi looked as if he could break par anywhere, but strange things happen in golf, especially on your home course, and most especially when you’ve built it yourself. The design is credited to Jim Fazio, but Trump, by his accounting, had done a lot to shape every hole. It was obvious Trump believed the course also belonged on the Golf Digest list. (Golf Magazine, which also ranks golf courses, is a member of the SI Golf Group.) “I have people coming up to me all the time saying my New Jersey course is the best course they’ve ever played, but I think this one is every bit as good and maybe better,” Trump said.

At the turn he slipped into the clubhouse for a few minutes where a foot-high stack of tax documents awaited him. He signed a few of them with his distinctive, thick up-and-down signature and said, “Golf is a small part of my business. One, two percent. But you know why I spend so much time on it? Because I do what I want and I like it.”

Before I go on, I ask you to accept a blanket apology. . . .

This whole expanding business of playing fancy golf courses and comparing them with other fancy golf courses, there’s something appalling about it, and it yields some of the most pretentious writing and conversation you’ll ever come across. It’s an embarrassment of riches, just being able to play courses where you can putt on the tee boxes and a man stands there waiting to rake the bunker you’ve just sullied. Everybody enjoys the old grillroom question, “If you could play only one course for the rest of your life, which would it be?” You de-fend your choice and have a good time doing it. But when the tone is definitive, as if there are correct and incorrect opinions, that makes my skin crawl. I see golf courses not only as great playing fields but also as large-scale works of art. It was obvious after only nine holes with Trump that he does too — he likes to say that he finally gets gardening — which is why he likes to build them. All I’m doing is offering my own reaction to the places I went on my Trump tour, as your proxy.

Read more

Courtesy of golf.com

 

Justin Thomas Wins Sony Open, Sets PGA Tour’s 72-Hole Scoring Record

HONOLULU, HI – JANUARY 15: Justin Thomas plays a tee shot on the first hole during the final round of the Sony Open in Honolulu, Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 15, 2017 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

Challenged only by the record book, Justin Thomas won the Sony Open on Sunday with the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history.

Thomas capped off his wonderful week at Waialae that began with a 59 with his second straight victory. He two-putted birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th and closed with a 5-under 65 to set the record at 253. Tommy Armour III shot 254 at the 2003 Texas Open.

“It’s been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,” Thomas said before going to sign his historic card.

Make that two weeks.

The 23-year-old from Kentucky won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week by three shots, then destroyed the full field at the Sony Open to win by seven shots. Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more.

“I felt like I was trying to win a tournament for second place,” Jordan Spieth said, summing up the helpless feeling of everyone.

That honor went to Justin Rose, who closed with a 64 to finish alone in second. Spieth shot a 63 to finish alone in third.

The first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour was a one-man show.

Thomas began the final round with a seven-shot lead and no one got closer than five shots all day. His only nervous moment was an 8-foot par putt on the sixth hole when he was five shots ahead. He made that, and the rest of the day was a Pacific breeze.

Thomas joined Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Thomas was 49-under par for his two weeks, compared with Els at 47 under.

Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger Woods (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of the their first five starts in a PGA Tour season. It started last fall with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

He moved to No. 8 in the world.

“He’s got full control of his game, full confidence, and he’s executing under pressure,” Spieth said. “It’s a lot of fun to see. Certainly stuff that myself and a lot of our peers have seen going back almost 10 years now. He’s certainly showing the world what he’s capable of.”

No one ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round of a PGA Tour event, a fact that never entered the conversation on a balmy afternoon at Waialae.

Thomas, thinking more about the trophy and another record when he started the final round, took no chances early on. He was 1 over through seven holes, making a soft bogey with a three-putt from 45 feet on No. 4 and a tough par save on No. 6, and still no one got closer than five shots.

But when he poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth, Thomas shifted into another gear. That was the start of four birdies in five holes – the exception was a birdie putt he missed from just inside 10 feet – and he stretched his lead to as many as nine shots.

Waialae was vulnerable all week with not much wind, fast fairways and greens that were softer than usual. Thomas produced the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday. Kevin Kisner had a shot at 59 on Saturday until missing a 9-foot eagle putt on his final hole. And on Sunday, Chez Reavie made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 17th hole that gave him a shot at a sub-60 round. Only a bogey on the sixth hole (he start on No. 10) stopping him, and he had to settle for a 61. That matched the third-best score of the week.

Even in easier conditions, no one played like Thomas.

McIlroy Taken By Storm In South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 15: Graeme Storm of England celebrates with the trophy after winning the BMW South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club on January 15, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Graeme Storm beat Rory McIlroy on the third playoff hole to win the SA Open on Sunday, earning the Englishman a second European Tour title 80 days after losing his card by 100 euros.

After the 251st-ranked Storm tapped in for a par, McIlroy slid his par putt wide from 7 feet on their fourth visit to the 18th hole at the Glendower Golf Club.

“I’m in shock, this has been a surreal week,” Storm said. “To find myself in the position I was in, playing on the final day with the best player in the world right now. It’s just a dream come true.”

McIlroy, the world No. 2, started the final round three strokes behind Storm but chased down the overnight leader, moving atop the leaderboard when Storm missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 14. McIlroy relinquished the lead by bogeying No. 17 after taking two shots in a greenside bunker, taking the event to a playoff with both on 18-under-par 270.

McIlroy shot 4-under 68 and Storm had a 71.

Storm lost his card at the end of last year, only to get a reprieve when American player Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to join the tour.

His other title came at the French Open in 2007.

Tour rookie Jordan Smith of England was a shot back in third ahead of a trio of South African players. Dean Burmester was fourth on 273, one stroke ahead of Thomas Aiken and Trevor Fisher Jnr.

On the first playoff hole, Storm sank a close-range putt for par. They went back up the par-4 18th and both players drove into the rough but still managed to make par.

The third time round, McIlroy hit his approach shot short of the green to give Storm the advantage. The Englishman’s 45-foot birdie putt just missed, as did McIlory’s putt for par minutes later.

Storm played cautiously Sunday, coming up short with many putts in the back nine, to allow McIlroy to eat into his lead.

Courtesy of AP NEWS

Woody Austin Shoots 59 At Diamond Resorts Invitational

Woody Austin

Woody Austin shot a 59 at the Diamond Resorts Invitational. And he didn’t even know it.

Austin went on a birdie tear in the opening round of the tournament, carding 10 birdies and an eagle with no bogeys. When he walked off the 18th green, Austin believed he had a great round, but not a 59.

“I didn’t know it was a par-71 so when I walked off the last green I thought I shot 60,” Austin said. “Everybody goes, ‘No, it’s a par-71.’ So, ah, cool. I really didn’t know.

“I’ve said all along the game has gotten a lot easier because of the technology and the golf ball,”Austin continued. “It really is a putting contest. And I proved that today. If you get hot in one round, it’s so easy to keep the ball in front of you. When you’re on, you’re really on.”

The event has a mixed field of PGA Tour Champions Tour players, LPGA Tour players and celebrities, so it’s not an official Champions Tour event. But still, a 59 is a 59.

Rory McIlroy Resents The Olympic Games For ‘Political’ Choice

Rory McIlroy tees off at Hazeltine National during the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Rory McIlroy says he resented how the Olympics forced him to decide whether he would represent Ireland or Britain and that it reached a point that it “wasn’t worth the hassle” to compete in Rio de Janeiro.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent in Ireland, McIlroy explained why he was so critical of golf’s return to the Olympics during a press conference at last summer’s British Open.

McIlroy, the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, cited concerns over the Zika virus as his reason not to go to Rio.

He told the Irish newspaper that when the International Olympic Committee announced in 2009 that golf would be part of the program for the first time since 2004, “all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am.”

“Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to (upset) the most?” McIlroy said. “I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in. That’s my feelings toward it. And whether that’s right or wrong, that’s how I feel.”

McIlroy said he sent a text message to Justin Rose to congratulate him on winning the gold medal in Rio for Britain. He said Rose thanked him and asked if McIlroy felt as though he had missed out.

“I said, ‘Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.'” McIlroy told the newspaper. “I don’t know the words to either anthem. I don’t feel a connection to either flag. I don’t want it to be about flags. I’ve tried to stay away from that.”

McIlroy was among several top stars who opted to skip the Olympics, most citing the Zika virus. He had been scheduled to play for Ireland until announcing in June he would not be going. Jordan Spieth did not announce his decision to miss Rio until a few days before the British Open. McIlroy spoke after Spieth, and the Olympics was brought up again.

McIlroy dismissed the notion that he had let down his sport, saying, “I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game.” He also said that he probably wouldn’t watch Olympic golf on TV, only “the stuff that matters.”

“Well, I’d had nothing but questions about the Olympics – ‘the Olympics, the Olympics, the Olympics’ – and it was just one question too far,” McIlroy said. “I’d said what I needed to say. I’d got myself out of it, and it comes up again. And I could feel it. I could just feel myself go, ‘Poom!’ And I thought, ‘I’m going to let them have it.’

“OK, I went a bit far,” he added. “But I hate that term, ‘growing the game.’ Do you ever hear that in other sports? In tennis? Football? ‘Let’s grow the game.’ I mean, golf was here long before we were, and it’s going to be here long after we’re gone. So I don’t get that, but I probably went a bit overboard.”

McIlroy said Olympic golf didn’t mean that much to him.

“It really doesn’t. I don’t get excited about it. And people can disagree, and have a different opinion, and that’s totally fine,” he said. “Each to their own.”

McIlroy, who is to play the South African Open this week, said he has never been driven by nationalism or patriotism because of where he was raised.

“And I never wanted it to get political or about where I’m from, but that’s what it turned into,” he said. “And it just got to the point where it wasn’t worth the hassle.”

Courtesy of Dublin (AP)

Former South African Golf Star Westner Dies in Apparent Suicide

Ernie Els and Wayne Westner celebrate winning the World Cup Golf competition on the 18th green at Erinvale golf club, South Africa, 24th November 1996. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Wayne Westner, a South African golf star who once played alongside Ernie Els, died of an apparent suicide on Wednesday. Westner won the South African Open in 1988 and 1991 and the 1996 World Cup of Golf with Els as his partner. He won twice on the European tour.

Police confirmed that Westner had died as the result of a gunshot to the right side of the head. He was allegedly holding his wife hostage prior to his death. The 55-year-old’s career ended in 1998 after an accident at the Madeira Island Open that left him with several torn ankle ligaments.

Els posted a message of condolence this morning after learning of Westner’s death: “Sad day, our friend Wayne Westner passed today. Great memories thank you my friend.”

courtesy of golfwire

Brandel Chamblee, Bailey Mosier Married In Arizona Friday

Bailey Mosier

Most people know Brandel Chamblee as the guy with great hair who talks about Tiger Woods and other golf stars as an analyst for the Golf Channel. But the former PGA Tour player is now a husband, too.

Chamblee and Bailey Mosier married on Friday at the Arizona Country Club in Phoenix. Mosier is a reporter on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, and she was also featured in GOLF’s Most Beautiful Women in Golf in 2016. You can view her photos from the shoot here.

Congrats to the couple; and may their life together bring them many birdies.

Courtesy Extra Spin Staff