From Iowa to Ireland Ecclectic Major Field

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA of AmericaTUCKER'S TOWN, Bermuda -- They come from three countries on three continents, vastly different backgrounds, brought to together in Bermuda only by the major golf championships they won this year.
 
Getting to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf wasn't easy for any of them, and it had nothing to do with flight plans.
 
Masters champion Zach Johnson, the self-described 'normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,' toiled for six years in the minor leagues before he made it to the PGA Tour, and he surprised even himself by holding off Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and a host of others to slip into the green jacket.
 
Angel Cabrera was a caddie at Cordoba Golf Club, blessed with immense talent and power but needing some financial backing from fellow Argentine Eduardo Romero to get started. Even then, it took him four tries to get his card through European Q-school.
 
Padraig Harrington finished his degree in accounting before turning pro, and while he won in his second year in Europe, he was known as much for piling up the runner-up finishes and constantly tinkering with his swing until he felt it was good enough to win a major. And he didn't feel that way until about 18 months ago.
 
The fourth player in the most exclusive field in golf is Jim Furyk, the first alternate from a points-based system of former major champions, gladly accepting when PGA champion Tiger Woods decided to skip this week. Furyk, too, is a classic grinder.
 
'There are similarities,' Harrington said as he rapped 6-foot putts on the 17th green in twilight Monday, gearing up for the $1.35 million exhibition where everyone feels like a winner because of how they qualified.
 
'Angel is the most natural player of us all here,' the Irishman said. 'Myself, Zach and Jim have all been more of the working kind. Angel always has been trying to get the best out of his talent. We've always been trying to improve. Angel always had it, but it was just a question of making the most of it, letting it come out.'
 
They are connected by hard work, but even then Harrington noticed some differences.
 
'Jim work hard, but he stuck with what he's got,' he said. 'I'm the opposite. I've worked hard, but I've changed everything I've got.'
 
The biggest change might be the event itself.
 
For starters, the Grand Slam has moved from Poipu Bay in Hawaii to the Mid-Ocean Club in Bermuda, a 20-square mile speck of land in the middle of the Atlantic with turquoise water, pink sand and a soft surf. There is a change in venue, but not necessarily the views.
 
'It seems like a very great place to take some vacations,' Cabrera said.
 
Woods decided to take his holiday away from the golf course, and that might be the biggest change of all. A winner at the PGA Championship for his 13th career major, this is the first time Woods has skipped the event when eligible.
 
'I haven't spent as much time at home as I would have liked,' Woods said at the TOUR Championship, which he won for his fourth victory in five starts that made him the first FedExCup champion.
 
It was a huge blow to Bermuda, which had been anticipating a visit from the world's No. 1 player, and for the PGA of America, which lost a premier player for the second straight year. Phil Mickelson did not play in 2006 after winning the Masters.
 
'We're disappointed Tiger won't be with us,' PGA president Brian Whitcomb said. 'But we're proud of our champions we have here. Tiger has always supported golf and the PGA of America. I got a classy letter from him stating that he's mentally exhausted and just needs a break. I respect that.'
 
There was plenty of star power in the pro-am, although not necessarily from a major champion.
 
Two of the most famous residents of Bermuda, actor Michael Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, drew the largest gallery, about 200 people who soaked in the sun and an endless horizon of ocean. They played the final six holes with Harrington, who got so much attention that his orange pen was running dry late in the afternoon from signing so many autographs.
 
All of them were thrilled to be in Bermuda, if not for the hospitality than the reminder of what it took to get here.
 
Perhaps none were as wide-eyed as Johnson, and it didn't take long for him to realize he wasn't in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and this was not a normal golf outing. Each player receives a personal escort to his room, and Johnson was shocked when the door was opened.
 
'We don't have a room here. We have a house,' Johnson said. 'It's perks on steroids.'
 
One perk has gone up this year, with the prize money increased to $1.35 million. The winner gets $600,000, with $200,000 for last.
 
Harrington won the award for earliest arrival, but only because he was beaten in the first round of the World Match Play and decided to come over Saturday night. He went to an English pub that might have felt like being close to home except that it didn't show rugby or soccer on the television, which he found odd.
 
But while Bermuda feels like a holiday, Harrington said he doesn't bring his golf clubs when he goes on vacation.
 
'You want to win, and you don't want to tell the other guys you're trying,' Harrington said. 'It's relaxed, but you don't ever want to lose. Obviously, it's an exhibition. You've got your major champions here and it's kind of a showcase for TV. I like this idea where it's not quite as serious as normal golf. I like the idea we can somewhat enjoy it. But you're still trying to prepare properly.'
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    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.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    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.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    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:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''