Notes Big Changes for the Big Easy

By Associated PressJune 1, 2005, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- About the only thing Ernie Els hasnt changed the last few weeks is his caddie.
First, the Big Easy sold his G-4 plane when he got to Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship. Then he switched the shafts in his irons, going to lighter models. And during his two weeks at home in London, he ended his one-year relationship with IMG and will switch to British agent Chubby Chandler.
This will be his fourth agent since leaving longtime manager Nick Frangos in 2002.
I just felt like I needed a change, and that was that, Els said Tuesday. Ive been changing quite rapidly recently, so its not that big a deal. But Im looking forward to the future.
Chandler also handles Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
As for the plane?
Els is upgrading to a G-5, but hell have to wait until next May before it is delivered. He said the G-5 has a range that is about four hours more than his old plane, important for a guy who travels the globe.
I sold it for a profit, which was very strange in todays day and age, Els said. So thats why I did it. I got a good deal on the other one.
Els is flying by charter until he gets the new plane.
Otherwise, we would have flown here by British Airways or something, he said. The last time Els flew commercial, a mix-up put him in the middle seat in coach.
The U.S. Open has sold out every year since 1987, usually within a week after tickets go on sale. The Masters has a waiting list even for practice rounds. The Players Championship has been a sellout 17 straight years.
But when it comes to the PGA Championship, its all about location, location, location.
With three months to go, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol (Aug. 11-14) still has plenty of tickets available.
August in the Northeast is a tough month, tournament director Andy Bush said. The biggest thing is the competition in the New York marketplace. They have access to almost everything. It seems like the general ticket buyer always purchases a little bit later ... once they figure out where theyre going to be.
It doesnt help that the New York Yankees are home all week, against the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.
Whistling Straits had record crowds, but Wisconsin doesnt get major championship golf very often. Ditto for Hazeltine outside Minneapolis and Valhalla in Kentucky.
The good news for the PGA Championship is the corporate market in New York is second to none, and the tournament already has sold more than 90 percent of its chalets.
The PGA Championship sent out a news release last week trying to boost sales, although it was a mixed message. It began by stating that there were still tickets available'practice rounds, early rounds and the final round. Then, it suggested fans share weekly badges with so much demand for tickets.
It also said there would be a cap of 35,000 fans at Baltusrol each day. The bigger question is whether the PGA Championship will have that many people.
Tiger Woods hit a 3-wood that measured 321 yards during the Wachovia Championship earlier this month and someone asked why he was hitting it so far.
These fairways are a little like landing on trampolines, Woods said. You get the ball lying on the correct knob, you can run this ball out there a long way.
The word trampoline has been associated with thin faces of drivers, but the USGA might now apply it to agronomy. Senior technical director Dick Rugge said the USGA has applied for a patent on a new device that measures the bounce on fairways and how greens receive approach shots.
Rugge said the tool was developed by the same man who created the pendulum tester, the portable device that measures trampoline effect in drivers.
Its been down to Pinehurst, Rugge said of the device. Its not quite ready for prime time, and we dont know what the numbers mean. But its part of the whole picture. We arent just focused on the golf ball. Were focused on how the game is played.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are among those lobbying for a shorter season, although they dont need the PGA Tour to fix that.
Steve Stricker is a perfect example.
For years, Stricker has shut it down in early September to hunt and spend time with his family. He almost cost himself a spot in the Tour Championship in 2001 by taking off six weeks, barely holding down the 30th spot.
Stricker no longer has that luxury, having finished outside the top 150 on the money list. That gives him a different perspective on two fronts'someone who knows the season is as long as a player wants to make it, and someone who now needs as many opportunities as possible.
He is more concerned with the communities that get the PGA Tour once a year.
There are some events that struggle, he said. But to get rid of them, I dont think the towns themselves would be happy. They support the tour, they want to be part of it. Its a growing sport. I think it would hurt a lot of people if you start to get rid of some tournaments.
Already the hometown favorite at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., John Daly was an even bigger hit last week when we treated some 600 volunteers to a barbecue on Tuesday before the tournament. Weve been wanting to do it for years, and we finally got a bar, Daly said. ... It isnt quite the same as when Eugeno Saraceni changed his name to Gene Sarazen, but Jung Yeon Lee on the LPGA Tour will now go by Sarah Lee. ... Annika Sorenstam set another record last week, taking only six tournaments to surpass $1 million in a season.
Only four times since 1995 has a player won a PGA Tour event without making a birdie in the final 18 holes of regulation'Vijay Singh in the 1995 Buick Classic and 2004 PGA Championship, and Justin Leonard in the 2002 WorldCom Classic at Hilton Head and the 2005 St. Jude Classic.
I want to turn the TV on Sunday afternoon late in the year, and its not to watch Justin Leonard come down the stretch at whatever tournament. Its to watch the Steelers.'Jim Furyk, on the PGA Tour going up against football in the fall.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”