Disney Marks the Return of Aquaman

By Associated PressNovember 1, 2007, 4:00 pm
 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Disney golf courses already are loaded with lakes and ponds, and steady rain over the last several days have left the Magnolia and Palm courses under water in spots.
A perfect place for the return of Aquaman.
Woody Austin has not played since his memorable week at the Presidents Cup, when he took a dive for the U.S. team. More than any shot he hit in his best season on the PGA Tour, Austin might forever be remembered for losing his balance trying to hit from the bank of a lake at Royal Montreal and falling face-first into the water.
'Everybody I see now has to make a comment about it,' he said at the Children's Miracle Network Classic, which begins Thursday. 'I guess everybody wants to call me 'Aquaman' instead of Woody, but everybody is quick to throw out their quips about the water.'
He'd much rather hear about making three straight birdies after his dive to earn an improbable halve in his match, but that's not likely to happen. He was on the cover of two golf magazines -- one photo of him taking the plunge, another of him in goggles.
Don't get the idea Austin can't laugh at himself. Another magazine recently met with Austin for a photo shoot, and had him wear a wet suit, a mask and flippers.
'I'm not afraid to laugh at myself,' Austin said.
The former bank teller is laughing all the way to the bank this year, at a career-best No. 14 on the money list with over $2.8 million.
He is a rarity in many ways at this tournament, which is the ultimate example of the haves and have-nots. Austin is among 10 players at Disney who were at the Tour Championship, making the CMN Classic perhaps the strongest field of the Fall Series. Most of the others are well down the money list, needing a big week to simply keep their jobs.
Ted Purdy is at No. 125, while Tripp Isenhour is in a more precarious spot at No. 151. Isenhour will have no exempt status if he doesn't at least make the cut this week, although he appeared loose on the practice range when he pulled out a mask of Bill Clinton.
Other players are here for the theme parks, such as Scott Verplank.
'I got bullied into being here by a 12-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 3-year-old,' Verplank said with a laugh.
Austin would seem to fall into that category with two sons, 9 and 7. But they stayed home, more interested in starting their indoor soccer season than going to Disney.
Stranger still for Austin is this represents a homecoming of sort. While the majority of tour players live in Florida, few of them were born here. What's odd about Austin is that he is a native of Tampa, and moved away to Kansas.
'Most of your tour players do live in Florida, and most of them are transplants,' Austin said. 'I live in Wichita for one reason and one reason only. And that's because she wants to live there.'
The 'she' would be his wife, Shannon, who grew up in the Wichita area and met Austin at a Nike Tour event. They moved to Kansas City so she could be close to home when he was on the road, and they moved to Derby, a small suburb outside Wichita, when they had kids.
'It's a great place to raise your family, my boys love it and I'm around family,' Woody said.
There's only one drawback.
'I can't practice when I want,' Austin said.
He still hasn't forgotten that first moment when he knew he wasn't in Florida anymore. It was his first winter in Kansas City, coming off his second year on tour. Austin walked into the kitchen and his wife asked him what he planned to do that day.
'I looked outside and it looked like an absolutely beautiful day,' he said. 'And I looked at the temperature and I said, 'I don't know. What do you when it's 27 degrees outside?' I don't know what to do. At that point, I had lived my entire life in Florida.'
He still hasn't figured it out, and that's why the first part of the year has been a struggle.
Austin shuts it down after the season, usually starting his year at the Bob Hope Classic and arriving early enough to get in some practice. Even when the week is over, he still comes home to usually frigid weather.
He thinks that's why he started so slowly this year. But he sure had no qualms with how his season ended.
He won the Stanford St. Jude Classic for his third career victory, then challenged Tiger Woods in words and deeds at the PGA Championship, finishing two shots behind. His runner-up finish in a major was enough for him to earn the 10th and final spot on the Presidents Cup team, and he sure made a splash.
Austin doesn't have much to gain at Disney. He'll be eligible for all the majors in 2008 for the first time in a dozen years. The only golf left on his schedule after this is the Merrill Lynch Shootout, his first silly-season event.
But it's good to be home.
'I grew up down the road,' he said. 'I like coming back home. I get a chance to say 'Hi' to old friends and little bits of family that are still around. I always loved Florida, loved the heat. It's nice to get out of Wichita once in a while and get back to my roots.'
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  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.