Croquet anyone Choi shakes up putting stance

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2010, 12:03 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – K.J. Choi has been getting more attention than anyone on the putting green.

He starts out like everyone else, lining up alongside the ball for what appears to be a normal swing. Then, he turns to face the hole, jutting out his right leg to the left of the ball, and spreads his hands far apart on a strange-looking club.

What comes next is something resembling a croquet swing. It’s all completely legal. And it just might set off a new craze if it helps Choi contend at the British Open.

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KJ Choi missed the cut at last week's John Deere Classic, his first event with the croquet-style putter. (Getty Images)
“When I started out, I was not 100 percent comfortable with it,” the South Korean said through a translator. “But I believe in the theory and I believe in the principle behind it. I’ve worked hard and I’ve practiced hard. I’m convinced this is the right way to go. I’m not looking back.”

Choi’s radical change – even more noteworthy since he’s doing it at the British Open with a prototype club that he’s only had for a couple of weeks – is not unprecedented. Sam Snead tried putting with a croquet style, until the U.S. Golf Association passed a rule that a player couldn’t straddle the ball while swinging on the green.

Choi complies with that standard by standing beside the ball when he’s putting, facing the cup. And there’s no prohibition on swinging the putter between the legs from off the green, a shot that could come in handy at spacious St. Andrews. He plans on using the new club for shots up to 70 feet.

“Obviously, he has a lot of courage to do this coming into a major championship,” said Juan Elizondo, a longtime friend of Choi’s who designed the triangle-shaped putter and got it approved by the USGA. “But he’s relaxed. He thinks it helps his putting. He’s not worried what anyone thinks.”

Choi used the putter for the first time at last week’s John Deere Classic. Even though he missed the cut, he felt the new style could ultimately help his game – as much as a stroke per round, according to Elizondo.

The 2-pound putter weighs about twice as much as the normal club, which in theory will reduce the chance of taking an uneven swing. Plus, only the lower hand is used to guide the club – again, supposedly improving the probability of taking a level stroke.

“With a one-arm lever, you only have half as much chance to go wrong,” Elizondo insisted.

Facing the hole simply makes sense, he added, making it easier to stay focused on the line of the putt. So he designed a club to accommodate the new stroke, dubbing it the “JUANPUTT.”

“Does LeBron James stand sideways when he’s shooting free throws?” Elizondo said.

Choi, who missed the cut at Turnberry a year ago and has never finished higher than eighth at the British Open, figures the change will improve his chances of winning his first major title.

“People say I putted well with the old putter,” he said. “For me, there’s always room for improvement.”

TOGETHER AGAIN: No, Stewart Cink wasn’t giving Tom Watson a chance to win the claret jug back.

Cink and Watson played a practice round together Tuesday, repeating their pairing from last year’s playoff at the British Open. This time, though, it was all in good fun.

“Tom asked at the Masters if I wanted to play,” Cink said. “He said, ‘How’s 8 a.m. Tuesday?’ I said, ‘8 a.m. Tuesday, it is.”’

Watson’s bid to become the oldest major champion at 59 was the feel-good story of the British Open at Turnberry last year. But the five-time British champion missed an 8-foot putt for par on the final hole of regulation, and Cink pulled away in the playoff to win his first major title, breaking the hearts of pretty much everybody outside his own family.

Watson, in fact, might have taken it the best, cracking, “This ain’t a funeral, you know,” when he walked in for his post-round interview.

Cink and Watson talked often during their round at the Old Course on Tuesday, and clearly enjoyed each other’s company. When Watson dropped his driver as he went to sign an autograph, Cink bent over to pick it up. When their group – Matt Kuchar and Cameron Percy – posed for pictures on the famed Swilcan Bridge, Cink and Watson stood next to each other.

The subject of last year’s British Open, Cink said, never came up.

“There’s no need to go over things. We both know how it went down,” Cink said. “And we’re friends.”

Still, the two will be forever linked because of Turnberry. And that’s just fine with Cink.

“He provided a unique aspect to that tournament,” Cink said. “It’s something for sure that’s going to make that tournament special. People will probably think Tom Watson almost won it, and they’ll have to think about who actually did. And that’s OK with me.

“It won’t take me too long to figure it out.”

BLOW THE VUVUZELA: Ernie Els was impressed by everything about the World Cup in South Africa.

Well, except for one thing. And his native country has no control over the officiating.

Els praised South Africa on Tuesday for staging a successful World Cup, the first to be held on the African continent. Pre-tournament fears about security, transportation issues and unfinished stadiums were unfounded, and South Africa has been widely praised by FIFA officials, players and spectators.

Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time to win its first title Sunday night.

“It was unbelievable,” said Els, who watched the tournament from afar. “I’ve just heard very positive things. I’ve obviously watched a lot of matches on television. I thought the stadiums looked incredible. I thought the whole tournament went very well.”

Now, about those referees …

FIFA president Sepp Blatter grudgingly agreed to consider using video replay or technology after a series of bad calls at the World Cup, including England being robbed of a clear goal and Argentina being awarded one despite Carlos Tevez clearly being offside. The final was a foul fest, too, with English referee Howard Webb giving 14 yellow cards – a record for a World Cup final – and one red.

“I just think some of the referees lost the plot,” Els said. “But I think (overall) the tournament went very well.”

NO. 1 WATCH: Tiger Woods has been No. 1 in the world rankings for the last 266 weeks, giving him a total of 608 weeks in his career.

But Phil Mickelson has another chance to take the top spot this week. He would move to No. 1 by winning his first British Open title, and has a few backup options as well.

If Mickelson finishes all alone in second and Woods is lower than fourth, No. 1 goes to Lefty. Same if Mickelson claims third place all to himself and Woods is outside the top 14, or if he finishes at least fourth and Woods misses the cut – which happened last year at Turnberry.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.