Notes Golf not a big mans game at Sony

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU ' Golf has been trending toward a big mans game, and one need only look at the biggest stars for evidence.
Of the top 10 players in the world who have won majors, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington are the shortest at 6-foot-1. Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson are all over 6-foot-3 and could suit up as linebackers. Geoff Ogilvy is a little more slender, but still a presence at 6-foot-2.
Thats what made the leaderboard at the Sony Open going into final round Sunday so unusual.
Only one of the top nine players was a 6-footer ' George McNeill, barely. The leader was Zach Johnson, known for laying up at all the par 5s when he won the Masters. He is listed at a generous 5-foot-11, proving golfs media guides arent much different from other sports.
One shot behind was 5-foot-10 David Toms, who laid up on the par-4 18th when he won the 2001 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club. He was joined by Nathan Green, Brian Gay and Shigeki Maruyama, all of whom are a few inches short of 6 feet.
And chasing them is Tadd Fujikawa, the 5-foot-1 senior in high school. Fujikawa played Saturday with 6-foot-2 rookie Matthew Borchert, and nearly had to leave his feet for a high-five when Borchert made birdie on the 16th.
It wasnt many years ago where short wasnt that bad of a thing in golf, Toms said. It seems like everybody is getting bigger and taller and stronger, and the game has kind of gone that way.
Even now, height is not a prerequisite for winning, for the list of major champions this decade include Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir at the Masters, Toms and Rich Beem at the PGA Championship.
Power always helps (Jack Nicklaus, the pioneer of the power era, was 5-foot-10 with legs as big as tree trunks), but not necessarily at the Sony Open. Recent winners have ranged from Singh to Paul Goydos, from Els to Jeff Sluman.
I hit three or four long irons to par 4s, and I hit a couple of wedges to par 4s, and same with the par 3s ' a couple of long shots and short shots, Toms said. It has a flow to it. Its the type of course I wish we played more.

THE BIG W: Turning the corner of the dogleg left on the 16th hole of Waialae is one of the best views on the course, as players walk straight toward the Pacific Ocean and can see gentle waves breaking through the palm trees.
There is an added feature this year.
Waialae spent $10,000 last year bending the shape of four palm trees to form a large W behind the green. And while Waialae isnt among the most famous courses on the PGA Tour because it is so far away from everything else, the W creates a course signature like the clubhouse at Riviera, the lighthouse at Hilton Head, the water tower at Firestone in the shape of a golf ball on a tee.
The palms, with the ocean as a backdrop, look similar to the scene from Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. There is no suitcase buried beneath the big W filled with $350,000 cash from a tuna factory robbery.
But a birdie might go a long way toward a $972,000 check for winning the Sony Open.
Paul Goydos, meanwhile, had his own W story to share when he arrived at Waialae.
He flew into Honolulu last Sunday in the middle of the afternoon and was hungry when he checked into the W Honolulu-Diamond Head hotel. Goydos decided to order a pizza, and he was asked where it should be delivered.
I told her I was staying at the W, he said. And she said, How do you spell it?
Goydos should have picked up a newspaper the next day. In the business section there was a brief story about how the W was under new management and had changed its name to The Lotus.

ROOKIE DEBUTS: Three rookies were in the top 20 going into the final round of the first full-field tournament of the year ' Jeff Klauk, Webb Simpson and Wil Collins.
Klauk is the son of Fred Klauk, the longtime and recently retired superintendent of the TPC Sawgrass.
Simpson, a 23-year-old from North Carolina, might be the most polished. He was a four-time All-Amercan at Wake Forest, played on the Walker Cup team two years ago in Ireland and won the Southern Amateur at Pinehurst.
He majored in religion at Wake Forest, in part because of his faith, but mainly because it was a pretty easy major. Then he was asked which was the toughest course he took.
Introduction to the Bible, Simpson replied.

MARUYAMA AND MAJORS: Shigeki Maruyama of Japan uses a translator when speaking to the media, but he emphatically answered in English ' with plenty of gestures ' when the topic of major championships came up.
Maruyama says he is struggles on long courses, and thats what he finds at the majors.
Big rough, he said, holding his hands a foot apart vertically.
Narrow fairways, he said, holding his hands the same distance apart horizontally.
No chance, he concluded.
Then he was told Hazeltine could be 7,700 yards this year for the PGA Championship, and Maruyama went back to Japanese.
Sayonara, he said.
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  • Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.