Rickie Fowler, Patrick Rodgers and Patton Kizzire tied for lead at OHL Classic at Mayakoba

A lengthy weather delay saw the second round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba get cut short on Friday, and the plan was to finish the remainder of the round early on Saturday morning. Instead, more bad weather rolled in, delaying the morning start over five hours. When all was said and done, they finally completed the second round, with Rickie Fowler, Patrick Rodgers and Patton Kizzire sharing the lead at 10-under 132 and a busy Sunday in plain sight.

Fowler, who trailed Rodgers by one heading into Saturday, made three pars on the difficult closing stretch at El Camaleon to card a second-round four-under 67. It ended up being all he needed to catch the former Stanford star, who made two pars and a bogey on his final three holes to post a six-under 65.

“I felt like playing those last three, three pars, was good, that’s probably one of the harder parts of the golf course, the final five holes or so,” Fowler said.

The four-time tour winner has now made 10 straight cuts, and looks to finish at least inside the top 10 for the sixth time during that stretch.

Rodgers, 25, wasn’t thrilled with his short time on the course Saturday, but is still in a good spot to challenge for his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday.

“I didn’t play a very good three holes, but it’s all good,” Rodgers said. “I’m in great position, and we’ll see, I’d love to get in a full 72 holes and keep battling it out, but either way, in great position and looking forward to competing (on Sunday).”

Rodgers, Fowler and Kizzire will begin their third rounds at 7:35 a.m. EST. Kizzire, who didn’t even hit a shot on Saturday, opened with rounds of 62 and 70 in Mexico. He’s also looking for his first PGA Tour victory. The plan is for the remaining two rounds to be played Sunday, weather permitting, creating a marathon day in Mexico.

Like Kizzire, Brandon Harkins and Brian Gay also didn’t need to lift a club on Saturday, and sit one back in a tie for fourth at nine-under 133. They’ll tee off at 7:25 a.m. alongside John Oda, who also is at nine under in his first PGA Tour start as a professional. The former UNLV standout posted a second-round six-under 65 that featured eight birdies and two bogeys.

Charles Howell III was one of the few players in the field who began their third rounds late on Saturday night, and he took advantage, going four under in just six holes to get to eight under for the tournament. Ryan Moore and Russell Knox, while only getting in four and two holes respectively, are also at eight under for the tournament and two under in their third rounds. Martin Piller is also among the group at eight under after he carded a second-round three-under 68.

Courtesy of Christopher Powers (golfdigest.com)

A 9,000-yard course would be nuts, but it’s also fast becoming a necessity

Over the last month, golf’s ruling bodies—the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient—have conducted their most important championships, offering a referendum on their stewardship of the professional game.

At the U.S. Open, Justin Thomas became the first man to post a nine-under round at a major and Brooks Koepka decimated the longest course in U.S. Open history, posting a record 16-under on an Erin Hills layout that played around 7,800 yards. One former champion told GOLF.com, “This is not what the Open is supposed to be. It’s a joke. A highlight show.” At last week’s Open Championship, Branden Grace broke golf’s four-minute-mile barrier,torching Royal Birkdale with a record round of 62. Grace ranks 108th on the PGA Tour in driving distance; on his historic day, Birkdale played less than 7,200 yards and a short-knocker like Grace hit 9-iron or less into 10 greens, with the longest club he employed into any par 4 being a 7-iron. The longest hitters faced even less of a test as the game’s oldest championship had essentially been reduced to a pitch-and-putt.

I have been saying for years that to seriously challenge Tour players—to make them hit long-irons into some par 3s and 4s, and have a few 5s be true three-shot holes—a course needs to be around 9,000 yards. Maybe 10,000. I tweeted this in the wake of Grace’s 62 and it ruffled the feathers of many folks, including various Tour players. “That is complete nonsense!” Billy Horschel replied, with typical understatement. Colt Knost offered a similarly nuanced take: “U seriously have no idea what ur talking about!”

I’m not saying a 9,000-yard course is a good idea, only that it has become a necessity. Luke Donald partially fleshed out the problem with this solution: “SMH & 7 hour rounds, how fun Alan.” It’s true that a course of that length would require an obscene amount of land and water and time to play. But the USGA and R&A have shown no stomach for rolling back the pros’ gear.

The entire equipment industry is built on FOMO; we all want to play the latest and greatest stuff that the pros use. A reduced-flight ball would be a disaster for fan interest: Who wants to watch Dustin Johnson drive it 270 when we can do it ourselves? So while throttling back the ball and driver would be an easy fix to make today’s courses relevant again, I am operating under the premise that it will never happen, despite the pleas of Jack Nicklaus and many other truth-tellers. So where does the game go from here?

Course setup seems like an easy answer. As Knost tweeted at me, “They can’t help that there is no wind and soft greens [at Birkdale]. Deep rough firm greens [is the answer]. Course can be 6800 yards and play tough. Look at Olympic club.” The same thing was said of Erin Hills: It would have been a totally different test if it had played tournament and fast. But it often rains during the Open Championship, and every U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the Midwest or East is likely to get wet, just as so many Masters weeks have been touched by storms. To bank on dry, fiery conditions to give a venue its teeth is foolish.

Links courses have always used wind as a primary defense and still conditions led to good scoring, but nowadays no wind means these 19th-century playing fields will be destroyed by modern athletes who optimize their performance with trainers, nutritionists, osteopaths, sports psychologists, putting gurus, stats experts, Trackman, Swedish nannies and a host of other modern advances. Unless every major moves to California (home of the Olympic Club), firm and fast will remain a mirage.

So what about deep rough and narrow fairways? No doubt that setup is a deterrent to low scoring. But it also leads to a tedious, constrained style of golf, where shotmaking is diminished. A very penal setup off the tee means power players will simply leave the big stick in the bag. Driving it long and straight is the toughest task in golf, and those who can do both deserve to be rewarded; if there is no room to hit driver, the sport has been diminished and the venue is not offering a true test.

I should state here that I don’t really care about the concept of protecting par. Whether the winning score at a major championship is six under or 14 under is of little interest to me; what I care about is how the score was accomplished. Laying up off the tee with 3-woods and hybrids and hitting short irons into most greens simply makes the game too easy. Birdiefests at everyday Tour events are fun, but the majors should test every aspect of players’ games while pushing them to the brink spiritually.

Jordan Spieth described his third-round 65 at Birkdale as “stress-free.” I’m sorry, but trying to protect a lead in the final group on Saturday at a major should involve some stress. At the U.S. Open last month Dru Love, son of Davis and a college-aged amateur who was playing in his first Open, described Erin Hills, after a first-round 71 as “pretty easy,” while Matt Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, noted that “nobody’s playing with any fear.” Wood was right. During the final round there was never a sense of imminent danger, the rain-softened course was simply too short, even at 7,800 yards. Erin Hills had been built to accommodate drivers but in the end was bludgeoned to death by them.

This is the point where I should offer a brilliant solution but, alas, there isn’t one. The USGA and R&A have begat a mess that can’t easily be cleaned up. Golf’s most important events now need the perfect mix of sunbaked greens and stiff wind to offer the right challenge. This will happen only occasionally, so in a doomed effort to protect the reputation of the courses (and ruling bodies) you can expect more silly setups like the dead greens at Chambers Bay or shaved greens at the Old Course in 2015, which led to a suspension of play due to wind (even though every other nearby course was open for play), or what we saw at Merion, with crazy pin positions and players hitting irons off the tee at many/most of the par 4s, which is about as boring as golf gets.

Every sport evolves, and golf has done so rapidly this century, which began with the solid-core ball revolution. In response to my original tweet a few folks pointed out that basketball players have grown bigger and stronger and more skilled but the NBA hasn’t raised the rims. That’s because those bigger, stronger players also play defense, keeping the game in balance. The only defense golf courses have today is the weather, with all of its capriciousness, or extreme setups, with all of their flaws. The equivalent of 6’11″ point guard is a 9,000-yard golf course. Like it or not, the time has come.

Courtesy of Alan Shipnuck(golf.com)

 

Sergio was golf’s tragic figure; now he’s the champion he was meant to be

In the shadow of Medinah Country Club’s majestic clubhouse, at a PGA Championship long ago, Ben Crenshaw waited for his audience with the boy king. Crenshaw was a month away from serving as captain of the 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup team, so he was closely eyeing the final round of the PGA, watching to see how both teams might gel. Just moments earlier, Sergio Garcia had run out of holes in a thrilling duel with Tiger Woods, failing to claim the Wanamaker trophy but securing a spot in his very first Ryder Cup. “Boy, that kid is gonna be a handful,” Crenshaw said. Finally, the young Spaniard materialized, and Crenshaw offered him a manly hug and some down-home consolation: “You didn’t get this one, but you’re gonna win so many of these you’re gonna get tired of lifting trophies.”

Of course, who didn’t get swept up in the turn-of-the-century Sergiomania? The kid had it all, including a boyishness that transcended borders. But what Crenshaw couldn’t know was that the “99 PGA Championship would propel Woods to the most dominant run of golf ever played. Poor Sergio had his spirit crushed along the way, and by the time the 2002 U.S. Open rolled around, his public image had already curdled, culminating in him flipping the bird to a Bethpage gallery that was mercilessly heckling him. (Sometimes the jeers turned into mockery, as when Sergio showed up for the final round of the 2006 Open Championship, and another showdown with Woods, in an all-yellow outfit. Overserved fans took to calling him both “Big Bird” and “Banana Man.”) Over the next decade and a half, Garcia did indeed manage to lift many trophies, but of course no majors. He had good health, immense wealth and a string of glamorous girlfriends, and yet he somehow became a tragic figure—what the British tabloids liked to call a “nearly man.”

It was when we finally gave up on Garcia that he became the player he was meant to be, winning the 2017 Masters in one of the grittiest, most satisfying performances ever. Decades from now they’ll be singing songs in Spanish taverns about Garcia’s par out of the hazard on the 13th on Sunday, and his flag-hunting approach shots on 15 and 18, to say nothing of the decisive birdie in sudden death. That putt caught a piece of the hole and tumbled in. Back in the old days, when Garcia saw himself as a dogged victim of inexorable fate, his ball would have done a power lip-out and trickled off the green.

Much was made at Augusta of how Garcia has been changed by his fiancée Angela Akins, the former Golf Channel talent. Her father Marty is an underrated part of the story. Just as Dustin Johnson is benefiting from the hard-won wisdom of his future father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, Garcia has fallen under the thrall of Marty, an All-American quarterback at the University of Texas who was such a schoolboy legend that LBJ personally recruited him on behalf of the Longhorns. On Saturday evening at this year’s Masters, I found Marty on a couch in the Augusta National locker room. He had tired of battling the crowds and was plopped in front of a large TV. “I want to see his eyes,” he said of Garcia. And what did his future son-in-law’s visage reveal? “I see confidence,” he told me. “He’s not afraid of anyone or anything.”

Where does Garcia go from here? Ben Hogan won eight majors after he turned 37. Phil Mickelson nabbed multiple majors at an advanced age. Maybe Garcia will go on a run to secure his place in the pantheon. Or maybe this Masters will be the exclamation point on a very good career. Either way, the man has already been made whole.

courtesy of (golf.com) Alan Shipnuck

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)

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.

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

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)

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

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.”

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.

Euro Tour Introduces Rolex Series So Players ‘Don’t Have to Go’ to U.S.

Keith Pelley took over as commissioner and CEO of the European Tour in 2015.

The European Tour is introducing the Rolex Series this year, which starts in late May with the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and ends in late November with the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The other events that make up the Rolex Series are Irish Open and Scottish Open in successive weeks ahead of the British Open; the Italian Open in October; and then the Turkish Airlines Open and Nedbank Challenge in South Africa leading into the finale in Dubai.

European Tour chief Keith Pelley said one goal was to create a product that “provides a strong financial offering for our young players so they don’t have to go to the United States.” All the tournaments will have a minimum $7 million purse.

While 2017 is the inaugural year of the Rolex Series and Pelley expects it to expand, he should get an early indication of its traction.

For starters, PGA Tour purses (minus the majors the World Golf Championships) average $7.06 million this season. Equally important are world ranking points, and the gap between the PGA Tour and the European Tour continues to grow.

PGA Tour events awarded an average of 57.4 points to the winner in 2016, up from 56.4 a year ago. The European Tour averaged 42 points for the winner, slightly down from 42.2 points last year.

Throw out the majors and WGCs, and the PGA Tour offered an average of 50.6 points compared with 32.9 points for European Tour events.

The BMW PGA Championship is considered the flagship event for Europe and is guaranteed to offer the winner 64 points (Jordan Spieth received 52 points for winning the Colonial, even though it had a much stronger field that week).

Among the rest of the regular European Tour events, the strongest fields were the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the DP World Tour Championship, both offering 52 points to the winner. The PGA Tour had 17 regular events that offered 52 or more. That includes the FedEx Cup playoff events, which averaged 69 points for the winners. The first two FedEx Cup events offered 74 points, slightly below World Golf Championship level.

Europe at least hopes to build some momentum with the first part of the Rolex Series, particularly the stretch between the U.S. Open and British Open. The Irish Open and the Scottish Open last year offered 46 points to the winner. They will be up against The Greenbrier Classic (canceled last year because of flooding) and the John Deere Classic, which offers the smallest purse ($5.6 million) among PGA Tour events that earn full FedEx Cup points.

courtesy of AP News

Pro Golfers React to Donald Trump Winning Presidential Race

In a stunning upset, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on Election Day and will take office as the 45th president on Jan. 20, 2017.

The real-estate-mogul-turned-Republican-president-elect owns some of the top golf courses in the world. His Trump National Bedminster will the host the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2022 PGA Championship.

Many Tour pros are fans of Trump — others, not so much — and several of them took to social media to voice their opinion on their new president. Check out the mixed reaction below.

John Daly ? @PGA_JohnDaly

Congrats my grt friend & President of the US! @realDonaldTrump bc I know u will! Thk u 4 putting Americans 1st ??

Jack Nicklaus ? @jacknicklaus

Congratulations to the 45th President of the United States, @realdonaldtrump! All of us in the Nicklaus family are… https://twitpl.us/fNwK

David Feherty ? @Fehertwit

Congratulations to the Donald!

Dani Holmqvist @DHolmqvist

So much hate and derogatory comments this am. Instead, no matter what your views may be. Appreciate that you have the luxury of democracy.

see more http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/donald-trump-pro-golfers-react-trump-winning-presidential-race

Love: ‘Tiger Was Just Amazing’ as Ryder Cup Vice Captain

CHASKA, MN - SEPTEMBER 30:  Vice-captain Tiger Woods and captain Davis Love III of the United States talk during morning foursome matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on September 30, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CHASKA, MN – SEPTEMBER 30: Vice-captain Tiger Woods and captain Davis Love III of the United States talk during morning foursome matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on September 30, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Davis Love III delivered high praise of Tiger Woods ahead of the RSM Classic Wednesday, showering the 14-time major winner with compliments for his role as a vice captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

“Tiger was just amazing,” Love said during Wednesday’s press conference. “He had a great system. It really helped us on Sunday. We had already talked about Sunday pairings so many times that when the crunch time came, we knew what we were doing.”

Woods was announced as one of Love’s vice captains at the 2015 RSM Classic, and was brought on as the team’s ‘tactician.’ But Woods’ communication with the team seems to have been what made the differenc; Love credits Woods with inspiring Patrick Reed to victory over Rory McIlroy in one of the event’s most epic matches, as well as checking in with team members months ahead of the competition for long chats.

“We were a team,” Woods said following the Americans’ first Ryder Cup win in eight years. “Whether I was playing or not I was a part of a team. Our team won… My role was to help the team however possible, and I hope I’ve done that.”

courtesy of Golf Wire

 

Jordan Spieth Tabs Texas Barbecue for Masters Champions Dinner

SpiethmastersbubbaWhen Jordan Spieth parred the 71st hole of the 2015 Masters to maintain a four-shot lead, CBS commentator Ian Baker-Finch said, “I think they’ll be serving Texas barbecue at the champions dinner next year.”

As it turns out, Finch was right.

According to a GolfNewsNet article which cites Reuters, Spieth spoke Tuesday from the Bahamas ahead of the Hero World Challenge about his desire to serve Texas barbecue at the 2016 champions dinner.

“I’ve still got a bit of time before I have to advise the officials at Augusta National but I am leaning towards a Texas-like barbecue,” said Spieth, who is defending his title this week at the Hero World Challenge. “So it will be a choice of Texan meats as my meal choice.”

This would be a major step up from this year’s champions dinner, where Bubba Watson served mac and cheese, but it’s not the first time the state’s famous brisket delighted golfers in green; Ben Crenshaw, a fellow Texan and former Longhorn, served Texas barbecue at the 1996 Masters champions dinner.

How does Spieth’s choice stack up against other first-time winners’ menus? Well, Tiger Woods served cheeseburgers in 1998 but upgraded to steak and sushi after victories in 2001 and 2002. Phil Mickelson served lobster ravioli and caesar salad in 2005, then chose seafood paella and machango-topped filet mignon in 2011.

Will Spieth win another Masters? More importantly, what will he serve if he does?

courtesy of  Brendan Mohler (golf.com)

Nick Faldo: Team USA Could Be 2016 Ryder Cup Favorites

SOUTHPORT, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 14:  Nick Faldo of England pictured at a press conference prior to the 137th Open Championship on July 14, 2008 at Royal Birkdale Golf Course, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

SOUTHPORT, UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 14: Nick Faldo of England pictured at a press conference prior to the 137th Open Championship on July 14, 2008 at Royal Birkdale Golf Course, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Nick Faldo thinks that Team USA might have a leg up when the Ryder Cup comes to Hazeltine in Minnesota next year.

Sir Nick told Reuters that the possibility of a fresh-faced European Team could put the defending champions at a bit of a disadvantage against the Americans.

“There is going to be a changing of the guard, a few of our guys are getting a little older,” Faldo said. “I think America could be the favorites this time because the backbone of their team will be similar to the last one. Europe’s backbone could be very different. We could easily have six rookies , easily.”The six-time major winner pointed to up-and-comers like Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan, both of whom have climbed within the top 40 in the world ranking this year and are strong contenders to make the European squad.

The Europeans have bested Team USA in seven of the last nine Ryder Cup matches. If the Americans want to reverse the tide, Faldo thinks they need to work on their pairings.

“The Americans have struggled with that recently,” Faldo said. “Their strongest pair has been Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Even that one gets broken up at the wrong time. They have got to find a couple of good pairings but the bottom line is they must find a way to win.”

courtesy of Marika Washchyshyn (golf.com)

 

Rickie Fowler Appears on ESPN’s College GameDay, Has Close Call With Shotgun

Rickie Fowler Appears on ESPN's College GameDay, Has Close Call With Shotgun

Rickie Fowler Appears on ESPN’s College GameDay, Has Close Call With Shotgun

Rickie Fowler has been a superstar in the golf world from day one, long before he captured the 2015 Players Championship and started routinely contending in major championships.

And if you’re a Fowler fan, or even a casual observer of golf, surely you’ve heard him talk passionately about his alma mater, Oklahoma State, and its football team. Even his trademark all-orange Sunday outfit is a nod to the Cowboys.

On Saturday, Fowler joined the GameDay crew prior to the start of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry game. It goes without saying whom Fowler picked to win, but the real excitement came from analyst Lee Corso. When Corso also picked the Cowboys, he celebrated by firing off a few rounds from a shotgun into the sky, the second of which was a little too close for comfort for Rickie.

Watch the Vine of the incident below:

https://mtc.cdn.vine.co/r/videos/0F3277FD611282436102904741888_4108bf88cc9.4.0.3726167779697225716.mp4?versionId=UzjwlvKZnUs_F9WBk4QJeKqnasLgcEYH

courtesy of Extra Spin Staff (golf.com)

 

 

Tiger Woods on Bed Rest After Follow-Up Back Procedure

tiger-woods-net-worth-700Another month, another back issue for Tiger Woods.

The 14-time major winner announced on his website that he underwent a follow-up back procedure to “relieve discomfort” following his second microdiscectomy in September that corrected a pinched nerve.

“It’s one of those things that had to be done,” Woods said. “I have an outstanding team of doctors, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

One of his former swing coaches isn’t so sure.

When reached by GOLF.com, Hank Haney, Woods’ coach for six years questioned if anyone has ever played on the PGA Tour after three back opetations.

“If Tiger is done it wouldn’t be the worst way to go out because the narrative will be that injuries robbed him the opportunity to catch Jack Nicklaus’s record,” Haney said. “I’m sure Tiger will say he is going to do everything he can to come back, and I’m sure he will try, but anyway you look at it, the odds aren’t great now of ever seeing him return to a level even close to where he once was.”

Will we see Tiger in 2016? Haney is skeptical following this second procedure in two months.

“Maybe if he gives himself a year or so to get better he can make some kind of a comeback,” Haney said.

The procedure, performed on Wednesday by Dr. Charles Rich in Utah, has forced Woods to be on bed rest. That will cause him to miss a final design visit to Bluejack National, his first course design in the U.S. that’s set to open in 2016.

“I’m extremely disappointed not going to Bluejack, but I’m very excited about our grand opening in the spring,” Woods said. “It’s a fantastic course, and we’re very proud of our first U.S. design.”

The next time we’ll see Woods is at the Hero World Challenge on Dec. 2-6, where he is host. Last year’s event was the beginning of forgettable 2014-15 season and the first sight of Woods’ chip yips that would plague him throughout the year. He will not play in this year’s event.

The next time we’ll see him actually competing in a tournament? The 39-year-old gave no timetable for a return.

”My family and the fans’ concern and support have helped a lot,” Woods said. “I’ll be back, and I’ll be ready to compete.”

courtesy of Coleman McDowell (golf.com)

 

 

Rookie Harold Varner Shows Glimpse of Bright Future at Frys.com Open

harold-varner-pga-fryscom-openHe is No. 437 in the world rankings, for those of you keeping score at home.

After Thursday morning’s first half of the Frys.com Open, Harold Varner III was No. 3 — his opening 65 left him in third place with half of the field finished behind Brendan Steele’s 63 and Jhonny Vegas’ 64.

There is a good chance that you’ve never heard of Varner. There’s a better chance that you’re going to hear a lot more about him.

“You obviously want to start well and I did,” Varner said. “It gives me a good chance to play well the next three days.”

Varner was born in Akron, Ohio, got a set of golf clubs at age 2 and got hooked on golf as he grew up in Gastonia, N.C., just outside Charlotte. It sounds a little like the Tiger Woods story, except Varner’s family was considerably more economically challenged, and Varner didn’t have the physical gifts to be the world-beater that Tiger evolved into.

He spent the last two seasons on the Web.com Tour and played his way to the big stage for the 2015-16 season. He has arrived and, even better, he has arrived with big game and big personality.

Varner, 26, is not big. He is 5 feet 8 inches, a solid 170 pounds and is a big hitter. He ranked eighth in driving distance on the Web.com Tour last season. He is a consummate golf junkie, a true range rat in the most complimentary sense of the word.

Varner in one sentence: He’d rather be golfing.

His father was a car salesman who would drop Harold off at the golf course every morning before 8, then pick him up at 7 o’clock at night. Sometimes, his dad practiced with him late in the day but mostly, Harold hung out at the course, shagging his own golf balls — it was that kind of a range, old school and low rent.

“I didn’t feel like walking really far,” Harold said, “so I got really good inside of 150 yards.”

He improved from necessity, the ultimate teacher. He’d chip and putt around the practice green. Or play golf with some other kids who were there. He was all golf all the time. He played college golf at East Carolina and he’s quick to admit that golf was his focus, not academics. “They gave me a diploma,” he said with a laugh, “so I’m all right.”

Varner had perfect attendance on the Web.com Tour last season, playing in all 25 tour events. He is here to play golf and he’s off to a good start. Asked what his schedule was for the rest of the fall, Varner said he thought he’d get into two of the five fall series tournaments, but a media official corrected him and said he’d get into all five. Then I’m playing all five, Varner said.

You aren’t going to take some time off during that stretch, a reporter asked. Who’s the rookie in this picture? “What am I going to take time off for?” Varner asked, slightly puzzled.

He’s spent the main part of his adult life trying to get here. Now he’s here and he’s going to play. He’s got an everyman’s view of golf, which is refreshing in the pro world where a lot of players have won millions and were country-club silver-spooners growing up. That’s not Varner.

He struggled to answer a question about the best course he’s ever played. There are so many famous tracks out there and Varner, now that he’s a PGA Tour rookie, is going to have a chance to play some of them.

“Pebble beach is right up there,” he said, thinking hard. “I’m looking forward to Torrey Pines. There are a lot of them. There’s a place called Diamond Creek in Boone, North Carolina, that’s just incredible. There are a lot of good ones.”

Reminded that he played the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, he nodded. “That was pretty good, too,” Varner said. “It was just so hard. I can’t really say that was like a cool experience — I shot a thousand!”

The writers laughed, Varner laughed. Every golfer can relate to that. You play a great course but shoot a bad score, it’s just hard to enjoy it.

His opening round at Silverado Resort was impressive. He birdied the last two holes on the front nine to turn at three under par. He finished strong on the back, too, eagling the par-5 16th and adding birdies at 17 and 18. He was at a loss to describe his style of play. “I don’t know,” he said. “I hit it really wild and sometimes I get it up and down and sometimes I don’t.”

Thursday, he said he just stayed patient, gave himself a lot of birdie opportunities and waited for the putts to fall, which they did at the end.

“The greens here are way firmer than they were on the Web.com,” Varner said, “but it’s still golf. That’s all I’m doing. I’ve got 54 holes to play. I’m having fun.”

Varner is just the kind of guy you can root for. He’s pleasant, smiles a lot and has that genuine self-deprecating style of talking. He became a golfer, he said, because “I never got tall enough and never got big enough. I couldn’t really play basketball or football.”

Golf, he learned, he could get better on his own. He could practice on his own. His success didn’t depend on teammates, it was up to him. He loves basketball, he loves LeBron James (if you like basketball, who doesn’t) and he admits that if he was at least 6 foot 3, he’d be playing pro basketball somewhere in the world.

Varner is coached by Bruce Suddath, the pro emeritus at Gaston Country Club, a man he looks up to for helping get to this level. Now that Varner lives in the greater Jacksonville, Fla., area, he frequently sees former PGA Tour winner Morris Hatalsky. Together, they won the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in 2007, and they stay in contact.

Varner is an underdog story. His game and his personality ensure that he’ll get his share of publicity. He has earned it. He will also get attention because he is only the second African American player to be a PGA Tour member since Tiger Woods broke onto the scene at the end of 1996.

He’s been getting those questions ever since he stepped into pro golf. He will continue to get them. No, he hasn’t met Tiger yet but he hopes to do so in 2016. Like Tiger did, he downplays the race issue. He wants to be a great golfer, not a great black golfer.

Asked the inevitable question why more black players haven’t succeeded in Tiger’s wake—Joseph Bramlett of Stanford is the other African-American who made it to the tour, then had back issues—Varner said, “It does surprise me. I don’t think Tiger really motivated me. I didn’t see Tiger as a black or white thing. I just knew he was the best player and he happened to be black.”

The inevitable follow-up media question is whether his success might inspire other young black golfers. “I hope to, I want to inspire all races,” Varner said. “If me playing golf brings more African Americans to the game, then the more, the merrier. But I want to bring all types of players to the game. That’s my goal.

“Everything is possible. If I put my mind to it, I think I can do it.”

The rookie’s career is a work in progress. One round down, one good round, another round coming up Friday. “I just need to keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing and that’s playing golf, seeing my target and trying to hit it,” he said. “I’m excited to be here, but I’m just playing golf.”

It’s what Varner does best. Just play.

courtesy of Gary Van Sickle (golf.com)

 

 

An Inspired Anthony Kim Hasn’t Entirely Ruled Out a Comeback

kimThree injury-riddled years since his abrupt departure from the Tour, Anthony Kim now regards golf as “a fond memory” and is unsure if he’ll ever be back.

Kim won his first PGA Tour event in 2008, when he was fearless, brash and backed it all up with an exciting brand of golf. He ended that year by demolishing Sergio Garcia in the leadoff singles match at the Ryder Cup, the last time the Americans won.

Now 30, and speaking in his first interview in three years, Kim said Tuesday that he’s regaining his enthusiasm for the sport.

”I’ve been watching more and more,” Kim said. ”I miss the competition a little bit. Watching these young guys like Jordan Spieth is bringing me back to watch.”

Is it enough to bring him back to play? Not yet. Maybe not ever.

”I’m going to step away from the game for a little while and get my body pieced together,” Kim said. ”Instead of going from an Achilles injury to try to go 180 mph and not fixing the problem … I’ve got so much ground to make up from injuries—rotator cuff, labrum, spinal fusion, hand injury. I’ve had six or seven surgeries in the last three-and-a-half years.”

Asked if it was possible that he’s played his last round on the PGA Tour, Kim paused, chuckled and said, ”Anything is possible. Isn’t that what the slogan says?”

Paul Azinger, the Ryder Cup captain at Valhalla where Kim emerged as a star, was among those who could not believe that someone with so much talent could be done at such a young age.

”His energy and enthusiasm, his killer instinct, it all converged into him becoming our team leader,” Azinger said.

Kim’s immediate future is a business venture with Dallas-based Quality Metrics Partners, which provides ancillary service management in the health care industry. Kim said he made a substantial investment, which he made back within months.

His joy comes from a stronger relationship with his mother. Kim spent three weeks with her in South Korea, sees her at least once a month and was headed to his native Los Angeles to sign the papers on a house he just bought for her in Beverly Hills.

He said he has not played a full round of golf in nearly 18 months. Physical therapy occupies most of his time.

Kim didn’t entirely disappear, though sightings have been rare and have led to rumors, including one that he was sleeping on the streets of Las Vegas because he was out of money.

He earned just over $12 million in five full seasons on the PGA Tour and says he saved up more money than people realize. The stories and photos on social media over the years painted a wild side to Kim. He doesn’t deny he lived different than most golfers, nor will be apologize.

”If you don’t like the way I live, change the channel. You’re the one who tuned in here,” Kim said. ”A lot of the golf public may not appreciate the way I live, which is by my own rules. But I give everyone respect. I’m not rude to anyone. And I treat everyone the same.”

He said he is getting monthly payments from an insurance policy he took out five years ago in case he was injured. But he denied speculation that the policy was a factor that is keeping him from returning to the PGA Tour.

”I paid well into the mid-six figures for the policy,” he said. ”They wouldn’t have paid me every month had I not been to the doctors, showing them all my X-rays, doing all the treatment, the acupuncture, twice a day for physical therapy.”

He also explained his abrupt departure from Quail Hollow after shooting a 74 back in 2012. Kim said he ignored his summons for drug testing when he walked to the parking lot, though he eventually was tested.

”I was mad about how I played. I injured myself again. I ended up coming back and taking the test,” he said. ”I’ve never tested positive for anything since I’ve been on the PGA Tour whenever the drug testing started. Never. And they tested me more than anyone.

”These rumors tainted my reputation,” he said, ”and I didn’t have a great one to begin with.”

Kim had no idea he would be gone this long. He played golf with Phil Mickelson at the Madison Club in the California desert. He rented a house in San Diego to prepare for the 2013 season. He said he was up at 5 a.m. every day to train when his Achilles tendon popped. Once he recovered from the leg, he had a herniated disc. And the injuries piled up.

Golf moved on without him. He still has a major medical exemption he can use if he ever returns. Kim would have to earn $613,500 in 16 events to keep his card.

But even Kim can’t say that he will return.

He described his health as a ”6” on a scale of 1 to 10 and said he was coping with thoracic outlet syndrome. He also said he was in the process of moving, hiring a trainer and getting back to full health with hopes of giving golf one last chance.

”What Spieth and (Jason) Day did this year was ridiculous,” he said. ”I’m not going to compete with those boys unless I’m healthy. I’m not playing with 11 clubs. My goal right now for the next year is to get healthy. At this point, I’m happy where I’m at where I’m headed.”

courtesy of AP NEWS

After Historic Season, Jordan Spieth Has Officially Changed Golf

jordan6You say you want a revolution?

Golf has been there, done that.

Just as Tiger Woods changed the game with his power and fitness more than a decade ago, Jordan Spieth changed golf this year with less glamorous but no less effective concepts–putting, wedge play and preparation.

The secret of golf is not making bogeys. Woods exemplified that during his peak when his short game and putting was near best-ever levels but it was his long drives and precise iron play that got most of the attention.

Sure, Spieth won the Tour Championship here at East Lake by four strokes over Stenson, Justin Rose and Danny Lee, but his great contribution this year was in using all facets of his game and in placing the game’s emphasis back where it belongs, on scoring instead of monster drives and bomb-and-gouge golf.

Spieth ranks No. 1 in one-putts per round and No. 2 in percentage of putts made from 15-25 feet and it was no coincidence that he racked up his fifth victory of the season.

The look on challenger Henrik Stenson’s face was priceless at the par-3 11th green. Spieth’s tee shot came up short, caught a mound mid-green, and rolled back down the slope. Stenson had hit it to three feet. Spieth poured in the up-and-over-and-barreling-right putt from 45 feet like it was a simple.

“That was a dagger,” Spieth admitted.

Stenson keeps a good poker face normally but his that-figures smirk was unmistakable and, gamesman that he is, he gave Spieth a modest fist-bump and a nod, then rolled in his own short birdie putt.

“It’s been a phenomenal year for Jordan,” Stenson said later. “I watched it first-hand in the first two rounds in Augusta and he played phenomenal and putted phenomenal and it was the same putting display today. It was just an exhibition on the greens.”

Struggling to bring home a three-shot lead on the closing stretch, Spieth rolled in par-saving eight-footers at 14 and 15, showing his emotion with a clenched-hand fist pump at the 15th. There was also an 18-footer for birdie at the ninth, which brought a roar from a big gallery jammed around the green.

“His putting and his mental focus is the best in the world,” Stenson said. “He’s a very tidy player and every time he’s in trouble, he saves himself. When he gets the chance, he rolls it in for birdie so he’s hard to beat.”

His chipping and pitching are as good as anyone on tour. The same may be true of his work ethic. Think about the little things. Even though Jason Day outran him at the PGA Championship—and had to shoot the lowest score in major championship history to do it—Spieth holed out an important bunker shot at Whistling Straits’ 18th hole in the second round because he’d talked to local caddies who’d told him about that bunker (and another one) were firmer and played differently than all the rest.

For the British Open, Spieth played simulator golf so he could learn some of the nuances of the Old Course at St. Andrews since he didn’t go over early because he wanted to defend his title at the John Deere Classic.

At Chambers Bay, of course, his caddie Michael Greller used to work there so Spieth already had an edge over the rest of the field.

His edge at the Tour Championship, an event that Woods and Phil Mickelson were known to skip, was that he valued it and prepared accordingly. It’s safe to say that few players have treated this event as a must-win in the past when most saw it as a cash reward for a good season. Spieth recognized the Tour Championship for what it is—the most important part of the FedEx Cup series, if not the only important part. The FedEx Cup champion and the man who gets the $10 million bonus is usually the Tour Championship winner. So those three FedEx Cup events leading up to it, they’re sort of just the warmup act.

“We approached Atlanta like a major championship,” Spieth said earlier. “The whole year has been about majors and I consider this to be a fifth one at the end. I said in New York (before The Barclays), Everything now is to prepare to peak in Atlanta.”

Spieth wasn’t implying that the Tour Championship really is the fifth major, a silly thought for a 30-man field, just that he decided to treat it like one in his mind and perform his usual due diligence.

Peak for Atlanta? Those are words that have seldom, if ever, been heard in regard to the Tour Championship over the years.

Spieth and Greller—they’re the “we” Spieth usually refers to—will be beaten on occasion but not because they’ve been outworked.

I think we were the first ones out here on that Monday morning,” Spieth said. “At Chambers Bay, I went in Saturday and had been there the Saturday before. When you change grass types, it’s a bit of an adjustment. I love this bermuda here but we don’t normally see it on the tour this time of year. We mainly did short game work and then getting my body right. My trainer was here. “I can’t speak about us compared to other players but I will say that I noticed it very, very lonely out here on that Monday, which was kind of nice.”

Who preps for regular tour events? Nobody. There isn’t time. The Tour Championship, however, isn’t a regular tour event. There are only 29 other players to beat—27 this week after two withdrawals—and the big prize is $11.8 million in prize money, including the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus money. That, plus capping off a great season with a feel-good win, is what made it worth the extra effort that Spieth and Greller spent.

Whether Day and Rory McIlroy and the rest of golf realizes it yet, Spieth and Greller have raised the bar on being ready and being motivated, just the way Tiger’s strength sent almost every PGA Tour player scurrying to the fitness van for weight work to get stronger.

You don’t believe this is a revolution? Spieth’s accomplishments say otherwise.

He’s the first player to win more than $12 million in one season. Tack on the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and he’s over $22 million.

At 22, he’s the youngest player to win five times in a season since Horton Smith in 1929.

This win reclaims the No. 1 world ranking, clinches the Vardon Trophy for best scoring average and obviously the money title. Player of the Year? That was never truly in doubt. Even before this week, would Jason Day have traded his PGA Championship and four other wins for Spieth’s two majors and two other victories. Damn right he would. Would Spieth have traded with Day? Not a chance.

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller expressed the appropriate amount of awe at the end of Sunday’s telecast. “You’ve got to keep reminding yourself that this guy is 22 years old,” Miller said of Spieth. “That’s what is amazing. This is a great year for a guy in his prime at 26 or 28 or 30. At 22, where does his progression end? Are we seeing the best he’s going to play and putt or is he going to get better?”

Knowing how hard Spieth and Greller work, you’ve got to believe he—sorry, they!–will get better.

This revolution has only just begun.

courtesy of Gary Van Sickle (golf.com)