Thanks for the memories: the 14 greatest Phil-Bones moments

May 26, 2017; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Phil Mickelson gets direction from his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay before teeing off on the 9th hole during the second round of the Dean & Deluca Invitational golf tournament at Colonial Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-327610 ORIG FILE ID: 20170526_pjc_si4_894.JPG

Twenty-five years and 41 Tour wins later, one of golf’s most enduring relationships is over. As Phil Mickelson and his longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay part ways, we look back at 14 of their most memorable moments together.

PHIL, BONES. BONES, PHIL

As in a Hollywood bromance, the two meet cutely during a practice round at the 1992 Players Championship. Bones is caddying for Scott Simpson, who is playing with Gary McCord and a certain four-time All-American out of Arizona State. Phil has his father, Phil Sr., on his bag. After the round, Phil is signing autographs when he turns to Bones. “Are you interested?”  Um, you think?  “I mean, everybody was,” Bones recalls.

AN AUSPICIOUS DEBUT

Their first on-course action together takes place during the sectional qualifiers in Memphis for the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Qualify, schmalify. Phil shatters the course record with Bones at his side.

THE FIRST WIN OF MANY

Phil already has one Tour win to his name: the 1991 Telecom Open, which he captured as an amateur. His first victory with Bones, though, comes soon enough. It’s at the 1993 Buick Invitational at Riviera, where Phil closes with a 65 to win by four.

WHAT A CATCH

Mickelson swings left but he throws right. A reminder comes before the final round of the 2001 PGA Championship, where he and Bones, like father and son, play catch in the parking lot.

FROM ONE GOLF NERD TO ANOTHER

“Caddying at a molecular level,” David Feherty calls it, after microphones capture a not-atypical conversation between Bones and his man at the 2012 Northern Trust Open in L.A. Should Phil hit a normal hook? A rounded hook? A standard “Pelz”? What about the wind? The ball could come it hot, or “side-slash” toward the flagstick. On and on it goes. Their chat is catnip for golf nerds. As for the shot itself? Ho-hum. Six feet from the cup.

FAMILY FIRST, BUT PHIL A CLOSE SECOND

It’s 2008, and Mackay’s brother, Tom, is getting married in Vermont—on the Saturday of the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. Phil tells Bones to take the week off. Yeah, right. Instead, Mackay attends the morning wedding, then charters a flight back to Boston so he can loop for Phil that afternoon.

IT IS HIS TIME? YES! (AND BONES’S TIME, TOO)

After 12 years together and many close calls, it finally happens: trailing by three on the back nine on Sunday, Mickelson puts on a closing charge that culminates with a dramatic birdie bid on 18. The putt drops. Phil and Bones embrace in celebration of Mickelson’s first major win.

THE BREAKING POINT?

In announcing their split, Mickelson emphasized that no single incident led to the decision. But you know the Internet: people speculate. One moment commentators have zeroed in on took place on the 17th tee at TPC Sawgrass during the second round of this year’s Players Championship, where Phil and Bones engaged in a testy exchange over club selection. (“I understand what I need to do,” Phil said at one point. “I need numbers right now.”) Mickelson wound up hitting a hard wedge. Bones had reportedly suggested nine-iron. The ball found the water behind the island green.

A READ HE’D LIKE TO DO OVER

If caddies could take mulligans, Bones says he would like to take another crack at reading Phil’s birdie putt on the 17th hole at Pinehurst during Sunday’s final round. Bones thinks it will roll straight. The ball breaks right. Bye-bye, birdie. Mickelson winds up losing to Payne Stewart by one.

THE SELF-INFLICTED MASSACRE AT WINGED FOOT

On the cusp of winning the U.S. Open, Phil pulls driver on the 18th tee and blasts an errant shot into the trees. A failed attempt at an aggressive recovery shot later, and Mickelson is on his way to a double bogey, his title hopes dashed. “I’m such an idiot,” Phil says afterwards. Asked about the incident later, Bones says that given a second chance, he wouldn’t advise his man any differently.

THE SHOT

Sunday at the 2010 Masters. Phil’s tee shot finds the pine straw to the right of the 13th fairway. Two-hundred seven yards from the pin. A narrow gap between the trees. Rae’s Creek awaiting a sloppy shot. Bones raises the possibility of laying up. Mickelson is having none of it. “So I back off,” Bones recalled later, “and now we’re waiting for the green to clear.” The rest is history. A six-iron rifled to four feet, and a shot that lives on in Masters lore.

THE TEND HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD

Is Phil kidding? No, he’s not. During the second round of the 2017 Masters, Mickelson asks Bones to tend the flagstick for him as he plays a 61-yard wedge shot on the 13th hole, something he also famously did on the closing hole at Torrey Pines in 2011.

MONTEZUMA’S REVENGE

Under ordinary circumstances, Mackay would no sooner miss a tee time than John Daly would miss a meal. But circumstances aren’t normal at the 2017 WGC-Mexico Championship, where a stomach virus strikes Bones before the start of play on Friday. Bones starts the round but is too ill to finish. “You can’t replace somebody like Bones,” Phil says. But in what looks in retrospect like foreshadowing, Phil’s brother, Tim, fills in for Bones on the bag.

A WEEPY END TO AN OPEN

There’s not a dry eye on the 18th green at Muirfield as Mickelson captures the Claret Jug. After an emotional embrace, player and caddie walk off the course together, arms over each other’s shoulder. Phil is obviously choked up. Bones is shown on camera, wiping away tears. You were probably dewy-eyed, too.

  • Courtesy of Josh Sens (golf.com)

U.S. Open 2017: Johnny Miller pours cold water on Justin Thomas breaking his record

As Justin Thomas broke Johnny Miller’s record for low score in relation to par at the U.S. Open, people far and wide made cracks about the NBC announcer not enjoying the moment. Turns out, they weren’t too far from the truth.

Thomas shot a third-round 63 at Erin Hills — punctuated by an eagle on No. 18 — to match Miller’s famed final round score from the 1973 U.S. Open. But his nine-under-par total was one better than Johnny’s eight under at Oakmont.

RELATED: Our favorite Johnny Millerisms

Yet Miller seemed to pour some cold water on JT’s record-breaking round when Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner spoke to him on Saturday evening:

“Taking nothing away from nine-under par — nine under is incredible with U.S. Open pressure,” Miller said. “But it isn’t a U.S. Open course that I’m familiar with the way it was set up.” Hmm. . .

Of course, Miller has a point. Erin Hills, which is hosting its first major championship, has yielded unusually low scores for a U.S. Open. In addition to Thomas’ 63, there have already been four other rounds of 65, and more players broke par on Saturday than during any previous third round at the tournament. But. . . he still comes across as slightly bitter.

RELATED: The winners & losers from Day 3 at the U.S. Open

Although, Miller’s mixed reaction (he did give Thomas credit for going that low under U.S. Open pressure) shouldn’t come as a surprise. NBC booth partner Dan Hicks said during a recent Golf Digest podcast that Miller wasn’t too thrilled about Henrik Stenson shooting 63 in the final round of last year’s Open Championship. Not that we blame him. And he’s certainly not the first athlete to root against young whippersnappers coming after their predecessors’ records.

On the bright side for Johnny, he didn’t have to sit in the booth and analyze Thomas’ round on live TV. And we’re pretty sure this is the first time he’s ever trended on Twitter.

courtesy of Alex Myers (golfdigest.com)

Mickelson details what needs to happen for him to play U.S. Open, and now we wait

Phil Mickelson closed the FedEx St. Jude Classic with a 68.

Phil Mickelson closed the FedEx St. Jude Classic with a two-under 68 on Sunday, but when he plays next is anyone’s guess.

Mickelson said earlier this month he plans to skip next week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills in order to attend his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation in California, which is the same day as the opening round in Wisconsin. Mickelson is a U.S. Open victory away from the career grand slam and has finished as the runner-up in the event six times.

After his round on Sunday, CBS Sports’ Amanda Balionis asked Mickelson what needs to happen for him to make his tee time on Thursday, which is 3:20 p.m. EST.

“I need a four-hour delay,” Mickelson said. “I need a minimum four-hour delay most likely. That’s the way I kind of mapped it out. I should get into the air right around my tee time or just prior, it’s about a three-hour-and-twenty-minute flight, and by the time I get to the course I would need a four-hour delay. Last night there was a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms on Thursday; right now it’s 20 percent. Who knows. … It’s not looking good, but it’s totally fine.”

Mickelson, who hasn’t seen or played Erin Hills, added that he plans to keep his game sharp the next few days just in case.

courtesy of Josh Berhow (golf.com)

Golfer withdraws from U.S. Open sectional qualifier after airline loses his golf clubs

TELA, HONDURAS – MARCH 24: Michael Buttacavoli of the United States tees off on the 18th hole during the second round of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Honduras Open presented by Indura Golf Resort at Indura Golf Resort on March 24, 2017 in Tela, Honduras. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)

We’ve heard some horror stories through the years with airlines losing or damaging golf clubs, but this one is particularly sad. On Monday, Michael Buttacavoli was set to try to qualify for the U.S. Open — until his sticks never showed up. What a nightmare.

No big deal, American Airlines. It’s just the U.S. OPEN.

Buttacavoli, a 29-year-old currently playing on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Tour, advanced through local qualifying by shooting 69 at The Club at Emerald Hills (Hollywood, Fla.) last month. He was to play in Monday’s sectional qualifier at Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla., where an early 7:26 tee time gave him a small, but doable travel window after flying overnight to Miami from Ecuador after finishing T-51 in the Quito Open.

“I was met with supportive parents with food in the car and stuff I needed. My brother was going to caddie for me. I figured I’d get there, have a 30-40 minute warmup, and go,” Buttacavoli said when reached by phone on Monday. “My bag just never came.”

Instead, Buttacavoli, who has made it to sectional qualifying three other times, but never gotten into the U.S. Open, was forced to scramble back and forth between the baggage carousel and the counter, losing valuable time. His clothes made it off the plane, but he believes his golf bag got lost in the shuffle with clubs of other players on the flight who were on their way to the Dominican Republic for the next PGA Tour Latinoamerica event.

Following his initial tweet Monday morning, he exchanged messages with American Airlines:

And then with a fellow golfer:

PGA Tour pro Zac Blair weighed in wondering why he didn’t at least try with a rental set at the site with 49 players vying for just three spots.

Tiger Woods found asleep at the wheel, didn’t know where he was when arrested for DUI

Fourteen-time major-winner Tiger Woods was found asleep in the driver’s seat and didn’t know where he was when he was arrested for DUI early Monday morning, according to the police report released Tuesday.

The report of Woods’s Memorial Day DUI arrest was released by the Jupiter Police Department Tuesday, and it details an alarmingly dangerous string of events for Woods, who last played professional golf in February.

According to the report, Officer Palladino saw Woods’s black Mercedes stopped in the right lane with the vehicle running, brake lights on and right blinker flashing at 4:22 a.m. The officer reported that Woods was alone in the car, had his seat belt on and was found asleep at the wheel.

“Woods had extremely slow and slurred speech,” according to the report, which listed Woods’s attitude as “sluggish, sleepy, unable to walk alone.”

Woods, 41, blew a 0.000 in two breathalyzer tests. He said in his statement Monday night that alcohol was not a factor, instead that it was “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.” According to the report, Woods said he was taking Solarex, Vicodin, Torix and Vioxx (but that Vioxx hadn’t been taken this year).

Woods told the officer he was “coming from LA California from golfing” and that he “did not know where he was. Woods had changed his story of where he was going and where he was coming from. Woods asked how far from his house he was.”

During his field sobriety test, Woods was not able to maintain a starting position, according to the report, and missed his heel to his toe each time while trying to walk a straight line. He stepped off line several times and needed to use his arms to balance himself. After police repeated the instructions, Woods again failed to maintain a starting position. Woods also struggled to maintain a starting position when conducting a one-leg stand and when placing his finger to his nose. During Woods’s one-leg stand test, he didn’t raise his leg off the ground farther than six inches. He placed his foot onto the ground several times for balance.

The officer asked Woods if he understood the Romberg test (reciting the alphabet backwards). He responded, “Yes, recite the National Anthem backwards,” according to the report. Woods eventually completed the task.

According to the report, Woods did take a urine test, but results of that have not yet been made available. Woods will be arraigned on July 5.

Woods last played pro golf on Feb 2., when he shot 77 to open the Dubai Desert Classic. He withdrew the next day citing back spasms. On April 20 he announced he had undergone his fourth back surgery.

courtesy of Josh Berhow (golf.com)

Nate Lashley, who lost his parents and girlfriend in plane accident, is close to earning his tour card

QUITO, ECUADOR – SEPTEMBER 18: Nate Lashley of the U.S. final 18th hole during the final round of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Copa Diners Club International at Quito Golf and Tennis Club on September 18, 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)

Nate Lashley won the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship on Sunday, the first Web.com Tour title in his career. At 34, Lashley is second on the circuit’s money list, in solid position to earn his PGA Tour card. In itself, a minor-league journeyman finally reaching the show, while touching, is not particularly newsworthy. But once you learn what Lashley had to overcome to reach this precipice, he’ll instantly earn your rooting interest.

While he was a junior at the University of Arizona, Lashley’s parents and his girlfriend visited him in Oregon as Lashley competed in the 2004 NCAA West Regional. After the tournament, Lashley returned to Tucson while his parents and girlfriend were set to fly to their hometown of Scottsbluff, Neb. However, he began to worry when he didn’t hear from the trio. He would find out three days later they were killed in a plane crash near Gannett Peak in Wyoming.

“It was a huge part of my life,” Lashley said in a 2016 interview with the Lake County News Sun. “It was pretty tough for quite a while, definitely for a few years. I tried to use golf in college as something to do other than always think about it. Golf is very mental. It was difficult to play and tough because you always are going to think about it.”

Being a mini-tour player is a rough go for any player, let alone one in their mid-30s. But after the tragedy, Lashley realizes golf’s spot in the larger context of life.

“It puts some perspective because you never know what’s going to happen,” Lashley said. “It makes golf a little easier from looking at the perspective that golf isn’t such a big deal.”

Lashley has bounced around the world for almost 12 years, yet is finally catching a break. He topped the PGA Tour Latinoamerica money list last year for an invite to the Web.com Tour. Through a third of the season, he’s fourth in scoring average, with three top-10s and six top-25s.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lashley told the Omaha World-Herald after his Sunday victory. “Words can’t really express it. I’m extremely happy and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to be here and be playing well and get a win this week.”

Lashley needs a few more respectable finishes to secure his PGA Tour card for 2018. Still, for the first time in his career, Lashley’s mini-tour marathon has an end in sight. And what a story it would be if he can get cross that finish line.

courtesy of golfdigest.com

Who has more natural talent: John Daly or Tiger Woods? Daly gives his opinion

Tiger Woods and John Daly joke during the Battle at the Bridges back in 2005 in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Fresh off his first win in 13 years at the Insperity Invitational, John Daly answered questions about how his talents compare to Tiger Woods’s on the Dan Patrick Show Monday.

“We’re really close on that,” Daly said, after considering the question for a moment. “But I think his feel around the greens when he was winning all those tournaments was a lot better than anybody’s. You could almost say it was better than Nicklaus … Tiger was always one to two, three, four steps ahead of me in this game. His focus and mentality is probably one of the strongest I’ve ever seen in a golfer.”

Daly compared his own approach to the game to Fuzzy Zoeller’s, Arnold Palmer’s and Lee Trevino’s, saying that he’s “loose and fancy free,” and “not a range rat.” Check out the full clip below.

courtesy of (golfwire)

Sergio wears “green jacket” at soccer match

The green jacket tour continues.

Sergio Garcia traded in the golf course for the pitch on Sunday as he took the ceremonial kick-off at the La Liga Clasico match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. And of course, he was wearing his Masters green jacket.

Garcia, a Real Madrid fan, was promised this opportunity by the club’s president, Florentino Perez, if he ever won a major. Mission accomplished.

courtesy of golf.com

Lexi Thompson, through tears, addresses ANA snafu: ‘It was kind of a nightmare’

Lexi Thompson pauses after becoming emotional while speaking to reporters about her loss at the ANA Inspiration.

Lexi Thompson, speaking for the first time since losing the ANA Inspiration in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu earlier this month, likened her four-shot penalty experience to a nightmare.

“I played amazing that week,” Thompson said, through tears. “I don’t think I’ve ever played any better. Just for that to happen…it was kind of a nightmare.”

Thompson is in the field for this week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, her first tournament since the ANA Inspiration. Thompson was assessed a pair of two-stroke penalties for hitting her ball from the wrong spot on the 17th hole and then signing an incorrect scorecard after the third round of the LPGA’s first major. Her violations, however, didn’t surface until the following day, when a TV viewer called the LPGA to report the potential penalties. She was told of the four-stroke penalty walking off the 12th green Sunday, and went from leading the tournament to trailing by two before her eventual playoff loss.

Following much discussion over social media, the USGA and R&A announced Tuesday an immediate change to the rules of golf in an attempt to protect players from being penalized for infractions that “could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye.” Decision 34-3/10 does not eliminate viewer call-ins.

Thompson said in her press conference that while she could see where the rules officials were coming from, she stands by the fact that she has always played golf by the rules.

“The hardest part, just going through it,” Thompson said, breaking down, “I’ve worked my whole life to have my name on major championship trophies, especially that one. It’s a very special week for me with all the history behind it.”

Thompson said she never intended to mark her ball on the 17th hole during the third round, instead planning to tap in the short putt. But she said she talked herself into marking because she had missed many tap-ins previously. There was nothing in her line, and she referred the condition of the greens as “perfect.”

“I have no reason behind it,” Thompson said of her decision. “I did not mean it at all.

“I mark my ball with a dot and that’s where I focus my eyes on where I want to make contact,” Thompson said. “So when I went to mark it, I just rotated my ball to line up my dot to where my putter would make contact.”

The 22-year-old top-ranked American said she was overwhelmed by the support she received following the loss. She didn’t let it keep her from the game, playing a round with her brothers just two days after the ordeal.

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte said Wednesday that the USGA, per a source, has not ruled out changing the call-in rule. Many pros, reacting to the USGA and R&A change, thought the amendment could have gone one step further to eliminate viewer call-ins. Thompson is in that camp.

“Do I think it’s right?” Thompson said. “Not really, but it’s not my say.”

courtesy of Marika Washchyshyn (golf.com)

Dustin Johnson announces he’ll return to PGA Tour at Wells Fargo Championship

Dustin Johnson, who withdrew from the Masters, last played at the WGC Match Play at the end of March.

Dustin Johnson’s injured back must be feeling better.

The world’s No. 1 player said he’ll return to the PGA Tour at the Wells Fargo Championships at Eagle Point Golf Club from May 4-7.

The Wells Fargo Championship announced Johnson’s status Thursday.

Johnson was among the favorites to win the Masters last week after winning three straight tournaments. But a fall at his rental home hurt his back the day before the year’s first major was to start.

Johnson warmed up last Thursday on the Augusta National practice range and came out to the putting green near the first tee. But he headed off the course and withdrew with a bad back.

Johnson said then he had planned to take three weeks off following the Masters.

courtesy of AP news

Spieth and Sergio, polar opposites at Augusta National, converge for green jacket

Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth have played this Masters (and their careers) completely different.

One man came here at age 21, played the tournament of his life, and won. The other went to Medinah at age 19, played the tournament of his life, and finished second. This should not matter when Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia try to win the 2017 Masters, but of course it does.

Spieth will not play the final round in his green jacket, but he carries it in his mind wherever he goes. And Garcia cannot show up here Sunday and win the 1999 PGA or the 2002 Masters or the British Opens he could have won but didn’t. But he must make peace with those memories before he creates a better one.

This Masters leaderboard is like a menu where everything looks good: The Spieth was fantastic last time, the Rickie Fowler is always enjoyable, and another Adam Scott or Justin Rose might be OK if you’re into that sort of thing. But Spieth and Garcia are the most interesting golfers on the board.

For proof, consider Charley Hoffman’s second shot on 11 Saturday. Apparently, nobody else did. Hoffman hit a terrific shot from the left rough to 22 feet, and the crowd at Amen Corner barely noticed. I’ve heard louder cheers at divorce proceedings. Hoffman was leading the Masters at the time. Then Garcia hit his shot to 21 feet, and the crowd gave him his due.

Garcia is six under, tied for the lead with Rose, after holing a seven-foot par putt on No. 18. All week, he has looked and acted like a man who is not Sergio Garcia. Serene. Comfortable. At the 12th, where the flag was flapping but the tee felt windless, Garcia hit one of the best shots anybody hit there all day, to within 10 feet. And on 15, Garcia calmly waited for Hoffman to hit three shots before sinking his birdie putt.

Putting is supposed to keep Garcia down – well, putting and ghosts – but in 54 holes, Garcia has had just one three-putt. Spieth, the renowned putter, has had four.

After he finished the third round, Garcia talked about his good luck this week. Sure, he’s had some: On 13 Saturday, he hit a 4-iron that should have rolled back into the water but stopped on a bank, and on 10 Friday, he hit his tee shot into the trees, but it bounced back into the fairway.

But bad luck is a matter of perception. Garcia’s has changed. He is not dwelling on the perfectly struck balls that fly long because the wind died, and he has flicked off any potential annoyances like pieces of lint. He ignored the fans talking as he hit his tee shot on 17 Saturday. He seems at peace.

Garcia has not played any hole remotely like Spieth played No. 15 Thursday, when Spieth stood in the fairway, 100 yards from the pin, after two shots, and managed a nine. And that’s what makes Spieth’s current standing so impressive: he is four under, two shots off the lead.

Spieth can be volatile but he is such a compelling golfer because he is steely when he needs to be. He saved par from the sand on the par-three 4th, and he kept making nerveless pars until the putts started dropping.

Spieth came into the week answering a million questions about how he would handle the par-3 12th after his quadruple-bogey meltdown on Sunday last year. Actually, “a million questions” is not accurate – it was the same question a million times. He said he would be fine, but what he should have said was that he is 23 years old and already owns a green jacket, so who’s haunting whom here?

Fred Couples is a hero here, and in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for winning one Masters, his only major. Spieth has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and has, oh, two decades to add to that collection. He is too young and successful to lie awake at night, wondering what might have been, and he knows it.

Garcia? He is 37. One of his heroes, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, was long done winning majors by that age – and Seve won five. Another hero, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his two green jackets at age 28 and 33. Garcia has time, but not that much time.

He is at the age where he can throw his toys on the ground and cry, or realize they are pretty nice toys and relax. He has chosen to relax. Maybe it’s the influence of his girlfriend, Angela Akins – Garcia once admitted he went into a slump after getting dumped. Maybe it’s just age. But consider these two quotes:

Garcia, 2009, on Augusta National: “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia, 2017, on Augusta National: “It’s the kind of place that, if you’re trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week, and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

Jordan Spieth, 23, has been blessed with the wisdom of 37-year-old Sergio Garcia. He has everything in his bag except demons. And maybe this would all be different for Garcia if Tiger Woods had made a few bogeys on the back nine at Medinah in 1999, but then Tiger wouldn’t be Tiger, Sergio wouldn’t be Sergio, and we wouldn’t be here, hearing him say, “right now, I’m pretty calm.” The next 18 holes may define Sergio Garcia’s golf life. He seems fine with it.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg (golf.com)

Heading to the Masters? 10 ways to be a proper patron

It’s obvious when you first step foot on the grounds of Augusta National for the Masters tournament that a certain kind of behavior is expected out of the patrons. It’s quieter, except for those birds chirping, and the patrons seem to have a reverent attitude. I mean, this is like going to the Holy Church of Golf. All the caddies are wearing white, many of the women are in their Sunday best, and yes, the golfers do plenty of praying, especially on Sunday.  But if you’ve never been before, how do you know how you’re supposed to conduct yourself as a patron? It’s not like we’re born with this ability; it’s learned. Admittedly, the list below seems to be more about don’ts than do’s, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re fortunate enough to have credentials (i.e. tickets), just follow these guidelines, and you’ll be fine.

par 3 contest

1. Down in front

Okay, there’s an order to things here at Augusta National. Areas for patrons with chairs are even roped off, and patrons get there mighty early in the morning to claim their spot. If you’re wandering the course, trying to follow a particular group, you’ll need to be tall or find a nice hill or bleachers to watch the action. A great viewing area, by the way, is the bleachers behind the 12th tee, where you can see the 11th green, the par-3 12th and much of the par-5 13th, better known as Amen Corner.

Also, it’s a big no-no for patrons to run while on the grounds, whether it’s to get a front row spot to spy Jordan Spieth going for 13 in two or to get in line for a pimento cheese sandwich. You may be lucky to get away with a warning.

2. Leave your cell phones in the car

Or in the hotel room. I mean, they’re adamant about this. Forget the fact that almost all PGA Tour events allow cell phones on the course, even encouraging you to download the tournament app so you can follow the leaderboard, this is a tradition like no other, which means those mechanical scoreboards have done the job in the past and are doing the job today. And if you were planning to use your camera as a phone, fuhgeddaboutit. Even during practice rounds, when you can take your camera, you can’t bring those fancy Androids or iPhones that take better pictures than most $500 cameras.

3. Don’t wear a green blazer

If you’re going to be a good patron, you’ve got leave that green jacket in the car or at home or in the hotel room. Those are reserved for members and past champions. You don’t want to cause any confusion out there, impersonating Doug Ford or Condoleezza Rice. If you must wear a blazer, pick a plaid one from the tournament that follows the Masters.

Be sure to leave the denim at home and, while we’re at it, consider saving the Loudmouth Pants for another week.

4. Smoke the fattest cigar you can find

I don’t know if there’s a better place to smoke cigars than where most of the old legends used to smoke Lucky Strikes and Camels. (There’s a great Frank Christian picture of Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer waiting on the tee puffing away, during the 1966 Masters.) But please make sure it’s a good one, like a Cohiba, since everyone around you will be smoking it, too.

5. Shop, but not ’til you drop

Okay, if you’re going to the Masters, you have to bring back lots of souvenirs for everyone, but not too many. After all, if you’re one of the those patrons who comes out of the massive Masters merchandise building with $50,000 worth of memorabilia, it’s pretty obvious you’re hitting the secondary market for your own gain, and that ain’t cool.

Just buy your closest friends a gift. They love those $16 coffee mugs. Every golfer who has received one of those from me drinks out of it every day.

6. Save room for Masters Mini Moonpies

I mean, other than the Masters, when do you get to eat these things? I don’t even know where to find regular moon pies in the grocery stores anymore. They’ve had them at Augusta National forever. I think there’s marshmallow in them and there’s chocolate on the outside, a winning combo. It gives you energy to climb all those hills, which look way bigger in person than on TV. So don’t fill up on $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches or Masters potato chips or Masters trail mix or Masters peanuts; save room for those sweet little saucers.

7. Arrive early and stay at Augusta late

What else are you going to do while in Augusta? Sleep in at your $300-a-night Super 8 crash pad? Breakfast at the Waffle House and dinner at Hooters (two of many blue collar staples on Washington Rd.)? Instead, take it all in. Get there at the crack of dawn and stay until the last putt is holed. And why not? Food is affordable at the Masters.

8. No ‘Mashed potatoes!’ please

No, “You da mans,” “Get in the hole” or any other lame comments. This is the Masters, man. A polite golf clap will do nicely and when they do something really spectacular — like when Tiger Woods holed out that pitch shot from behind the 16th green — you can let loose like any other golf tournament.

9. Adults: Lay off the autographs

If you’re over say, 25, no autographs. Leave that for the kids. We know what those 50-year-olds are likely doing with those autographed flags they’re supposedly bringing back for family and friends: cashing in with the collectible guys.

10. No scalping tickets outside the grounds

Okay, so you’ve got tickets for the whole week and you want to take a day off to play golf at the nearby River Club in North Augusta or Aiken (S.C.) Golf Club just 20 minutes away. Don’t even think about scalping those tickets near the grounds to pay for the green fees. This is punishable by jail, fine or even worse, permanent expulsion from Magnolia Lane.

courtesy of Mike Bailey (golfadvisor.com)

Edward Norton v. Alec Baldwin: Hollywood goes head to head over proposed Hamptons golf course

Actors Edward Norton and Alec Baldwin are the latest high-profile activists on either side of the proposed Hills resort on Long Island.

A proposed golf community in the Hamptons is causing a lot of controversy, and now Hollywood heavyweights are taking sides.

For the better part of a year, actor Alec Baldwin has become an outspoken ally of some Hamptons residents who oppose the construction of The Hills, an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and 118-luxury home resort plot on 600 acres in East Quogue, New York. The parcel of land is owned by the Arizona-based Discovery Land Company and headed up by developer Mike Meldman, who names actor Edward Norton as a friend.

Though the community on Long Island has been split for years on the development, Norton has only recently come on board to help advise Meldman and his company on how to prevent water pollution, one of the residents’ main concerns. Many worry that the proposed development will prove to be disastrous for the East End environment, while others in support think the project will help bolster the Hamptons economy. Norton is the president of the U.S. board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and a UN goodwill ambassador for biodiversity, and has worked with technology that removes nitrogen from runoff previously.

A report stated that Meldman will employ Baswood waste treatment, of which Norton is the chair of the board, to handle the Hills project.

Baldwin is concerned that companies like Meldman’s have too much leeway in the practices used to develop these land parcels, thanks to an area rezoning legislation known as planned development districts, or PDDs. A PDD’s goal is to encourage more flexibility and creativity in designing residential, commercial, industrial and mixed use areas than is currently allowed under conventional land use regulations. Baldwin, who is an Amagansett resident, released a public service announcement in 2016 in support of repealing the legislation, specifically naming the Hills in his plea.

“The biggest and baddest development on Long Island is The Hills at Southampton proposed mega golf resort on some 500 acres of land that is the largest privately owned Pine Barrens parcel remaining on Long Island,” Baldwin said.

Norton’s involvement comes a few months before the development’s third and final public hearing in June.

“The project represents a much lower density development with much greater retention of open space and ecology than the development zoning allowed for or had originally planned,” Norton said. “Without any doubt, a cutting-edge wastewater treatment system gives the community the opportunity to reduce nitrogen contamination of the inland waterways, which is critical.”

 

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