Stopping By the 7th Tee on a Snowy Evening
Each December while we lived in Chicago, I made a quiet pilgrimage to the muni I played every weekend of the summer. I would look in at the pro shop, ask if it was O.K., and then walk out to the course, chuckling at the Whatre-you,-screwy? look I got from the old guy behind the counter when he looked up from his Golf Digest (What was he doing there in December anyway?).
But he didnt really mind, and neither did anyone else, if I wanted to crunch over the snow that covered the course most years. So along I would go, hole by hole, reliving triumph and ignominy. A 40-footer on the second green for a birdie on a hot June day, a four-putt to the same hole location after a thunderstorm in August. A drive that finally cleared the ridge on the long, par-4 fifth; a hundred others that leaked more oil than your first car. Hole-out from the bunker to the right of 18 with everyone watching, hitting from the other side of the path behind where they keep the pull carts after over-over-clubbing on the same hole ' with everyone watching.
So goes a golfers annual retrospect. I had intended to do my usual year-in-review column this year, glibly recounting the biggest business stories of 2002. But you know what they were, both of them. And while the controversies over coefficient of restitution in drivers and whether a woman should be a member of Augusta National Golf Club have much to teach us as they evolve, I have broader things on my mind, things you might think about while walking alone on a snowy golf course.
What will golf look like in this country in 10 years? Who will be playing, and how often? Ive heard so much talk about how weve got to grow the game, and seen so little measurable progress, that Ive given up waiting. If it happens, great. If the project dies on the vine while the private sector tries to figure out whos going to pay for it, also fine. Ill still play, and so will a lot of other people. But golf would then become like fly fishing, which more than any another sport is like a good, out-of-the-way restaurant: People who know about its charms dont want word to get out, so they keep to themselves and sneer at newcomers.
I hope golf wont go down that path. But this isnt Scotland, where the game is a broad thread in the national fabric. Golf will be a secondary participation sport in the U.S. for a long time, at least for as long as we all live.
What should Tiger Woods do about Augusta National? Should we expect social activism from our top athletes? Why would we have that right? Or did Tiger place himself in the arena when he began his career by saying he wants to make golf look more like America (which is about half female)?
Is the constant tension between equipment makers and regulators a good balancing mechanism for golf, or just bad public relations for a game that desperately needs players? In a game that is famously difficult for all but a small group of people, can we reasonably ask engineers to slow innovation, assuming that could even be done? On the other hand, isnt there a fundamental rightness to the U.S. Golf Associations passionate desire to make the game recognizable from generation to generation?
Better to air out these thoughts on a golf course, because theyre the kind that would otherwise have you staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, if you care at all about the game. But there are other good reasons to end the year with a winter course walk.
The educated nose can smell grass clippings through the snow. The golf-educated mind can embrace memories that filter up through that same blanket. Now, when the year is done and the work is behind us for a few weeks, is a good time to let the games regenerative powers take over. Take a break from designing, promoting, selling, competing (and yes, writing and broadcasting) to reflect on why we have the best jobs ' and hobby ' man or woman could devise. Rest, and look forward to the not-too-distant day when the bloom will return to the rose, your down move will return to your right side properly, and your ball will return to the air.
Those lie-awake problems will keep until we get back to them in a few weeks. For the season of redemption, lets just love the game.
Happy holidays, everyone.
Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai
While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.
Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.
The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.
The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.
Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.
''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.
Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.
Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.
''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''
The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.
Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.
''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: