Entertaining Tales from the PGA TOUR

By Associated PressDecember 26, 2006, 5:00 pm
HONOLULU -- Starting the season in Hawaii usually means a player is coming off a good year on the PGA TOUR.
 
Most of the winners congregate on Maui to kick off the new campaign in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, then stick around the islands for the Sony Open on Oahu. This point was driven home to Steve Stricker by his 8-year-old daughter.

Bobbi was a toddler when Stricker last qualified for Kapalua in 2002, but the memories must have been lasting.
 
'She won a tournament at our club (in Wisconsin), it was either three holes or six holes,' Stricker said toward the end of his season. 'She comes home all excited and says, 'Daddy, I won, I won! We're going to Hawaii.''
 
Stricker had to break the news that he's the one who has to win for the trip to Hawaii. He did everything but that in a remarkable turnaround this year. Starting the season with limited status, able to play only four times the first four months of the year, Stricker rode a third-place finish in Houston and a tie for sixth in the U.S. Open to finish 36th on the money list.
 
He showed up at Tiger Woods' year-end tournament in California to play in the pro-am and prepare for 2007. After giving it some thought, Stricker decided to make his debut at the Sony Open.
 
'I'm going a week early to get ready,' Stricker said, adding that Bobbi probably won't know the difference.
 
The PGA TOUR embarks on what it calls a 'new era in golf' next week in Hawaii, and no matter how much the schedule changes, there are sure to be some entertaining moments like these throughout the year:
 
Dean Wilson was in the first group Thursday at Doral and was the early leader with a 66. He spoke about the morning conditions, when the conditions are calm and quiet.
 
'I like to play when there's no one around, and you just go out and do your thing and get it done,' Wilson said.
 
He knows the other side, having played with Annika Sorenstam the first two rounds at Colonial in 2003, more fans than he had ever seen. When someone jokingly said Doral must have been as peaceful as Colonial, Wilson returned the volley.
 
'Colonial on Saturday,' he said.
 
Sorenstam, of course, missed the cut at Colonial and the place emptied out on the weekend.
 
It didn't take long for David Howell to realize that no matter what he did, something would go dreadfully wrong in the third round of the Memorial. He kept getting ridiculous lies after marginal shots, taking three double bogeys in four holes and eventually shot 83.
 
On the sixth, another good shot that took a bad hop and led to bogey. Even Jim 'Bones' Mackay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson, could not believe Howell's bad luck.
 
'Have you ever seen anything like this before?' someone asked him.
 
Bones shook his head, then paused.
 
'Yeah, but just watch,' Mackay said with a grin. 'He'll birdie every hole in the Ryder Cup.'
 
Four months later, Howell chipped in and holed a 50-foot putt while making four straight birdies to finish off a singles victory over Brett Wetterich in the Ryder Cup.
 
Morgan Pressel has a major leak in her tear ducts, whether she's happy or sad. She was disgusted after a three-putt double bogey from 5 feet on her final hole of the first round in the U.S. Women's Open, knocking her out of a tie for the lead. A reporter went to the side of the ninth green, waiting to see the size of the meltdown.
 
Standing next to the gate where players exit was Beth Murison, the industrious USGA media official. She was holding a large box of tissue.
 
'Are you waiting for Morgan?' she was asked.
 
'No,' Murison said, confused by the question. 'My allergies are killing me.'
 
Caddies were assigned specific badges at the PGA Championship with large letters indicating where they were allowed to go, such as the range (R) and the locker room (L). They even had a 'Q' on the badge. That stands for 'quick quotes,' an area outside the scoring area for brief interviews.
 
'What does 'Q' stand for?' one of the caddies asked,
 
Told it was where the interviews took place, another one chimed in, 'Fluff got that for us.'
 
That would be Mike 'Fluff' Cowan, the former caddie for Tiger Woods who some believe was fired for giving too many interviews.
 
Tiger Woods has a security detail with him at every tournament that cares only about keeping his world in order. They are not experts on how tournaments are run -- or who runs them -- which became clear at the American Express Championship outside London.
 
Woods led by eight shots and had only a few holes remaining in the final round when play was stopped by storms for the second time. The remaining daylight was vanishing, the storm appeared to be gone. Woods and Adam Scott were in a van, eager to resume.
 
'Let's go, I'm ready to play,' Woods said to no one in particular.
 
That was Code Red to the security detail. Unbeknownst to Woods, one of them stepped out of the van and got on the radio with an urgent message to the rules office: Tiger Woods said he wants to start playing.
 
This didn't sit well with the rules officials in the office, both of them barking back, 'Tiger Woods does not run this tournament! We will decide when play will resume!'
 
Not many players grind as hard as Juli Inkster, even when it doesn't seem to matter.
 
The majors were over. She had no chance to win the money list or any of the LPGA Tour awards. She already is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. But at the Samsung World Championship in October, the 46-year-old Inkster worked so hard on the range at Bighorn that she peeled back bandages to show blisters.
 
What gives?
 
'I'm working toward next year,' she said. 'I'm trying to get back to where I was last winter.'
 
Yes, Juli, but the LPGA season doesn't start until late February.
 
'I know, I know,' she said. 'I'm just ... it's just that ... look, I don't want to tee it up and not think I can win. I'm a grinder. I don't know any other way.'
 
The next morning, she was the first on the range with her husband, Brian, standing behind her. Knowing she had the next month off, Inkster hit a pure shot and looked back at her husband, the head pro at Los Altos Country Club in California.
 
'I'm going to play awesome,' she said, stopping to hit another shot, 'next week against the guys at the club.'
 
They both laughed.
 
Then she went out and shot 65.
 
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry