Entertaining Tales from 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.
'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.
Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins
Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.
Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.
Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.
After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.
Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.
With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.
Love to undergo hip replacement surgery
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.
Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.
“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.
Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.
Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.
“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”
LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY
NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.
Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.
Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.
Here’s a summary of the big prizes:
Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.
It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.
Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.
There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.
CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.
By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.
LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.
The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.
Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.
Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”
Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.
“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”
Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.
Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.
Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).
In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.
She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.
How did she evaluate her season?
“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.
“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”
Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.
“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.
“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”