Notes Gulbis Done with Range Balls
Gulbis noticed some discrimination when she first began working with Harmon. She hit range balls, while Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and other clients used new Titleist balls.
'He said it was because I hadn't won a tournament,' Gulbis said last week. 'A couple of years went on and I continued to use the range balls. After I had a good season -- I finished sixth on the money list, played in the Solheim Cup -- he told me I could use the new golf balls.'
Gulbis turned him down. A deal was a deal.
So after winning in France, she called Harmon and told him, 'You better get my nice golf balls ready.' In return, Gulbis was equally excited to carry on another tradition.
'He always puts the winning flags of the players that have won up in his room in his office,' she said. 'The Evian Masters flag is like a bright, hot pink flag. It couldn't be any brighter. I finally got to sign that one for him.'
STRENGTH IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
Tiger Woods has played the Dubai Desert Classic three of the last four years and is building his first golf course there. Chris DiMarco did a two-week swing through the desert last year at Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Scott Verplank is considering a trip next year.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the hottest properties on the European Tour, reflected by the world ranking. The average number of points available to the winner of three tournaments this year was 47.3, compared with an average of 48 to the winner of the Bob Hope Classic, Buick Invitational and FBR Open in Phoenix.
This is one area where Europe might be able to compete against the PGA TOUR, especially with those stops offering appearance money and amenities so luxurious that some say the seven-star hotel in Abu Dhabi requires a golf cart to get to the room.
'I would hesitate to say it's a problem,' PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said at the Presidents Cup. 'Appearance money is concentrated on a handful of guys. We've had the conflicting events policy for a number of years, and since then we've had no players get anywhere near them.'
PGA TOUR policy allows for three releases to go overseas for every 15 tour events played. Finchem said he pays attention to whether the same PGA TOUR event is affected year after year, and whether a number of players ask for a release to the same overseas event.
'We won't release the world to go play,' he said.
The bigger question is whether Europe's desert swing stays in the first part of the calendar year. Chief executive George O'Grady is said to be leaning toward moving the desert events toward the end of the year to set up a blockbuster finish.
And that might make it even more attractive to some Americans, especially with the FedExCup ending in September.
Some players might choose to use the final two months to make a push for the top 50 in the world to qualify for the majors, and more points are available in Europe than at watered-down fields in the PGA TOUR's fall tournaments.
The Dunhill Links Championship offered twice as many points as the Valero Texas Open last week, and with the HSBC World Match Play Championship this week at Wentworth, it will make it three straight weeks that Europe has offered more ranking points than the PGA TOUR.
STEWART AT SMU:
Eight years after Payne Stewart perished in a freak plane crash, his son his playing at his alma mater.
Aaron Stewart is working with his father's longtime friend and swing coach, Chuck Cook, and playing golf at SMU, where his father won the Southwest Conference title before embarking on a PGA TOUR career that brought him 11 victories and three majors.
'What I really like is his attitude,' SMU coach Jay Loar told The Dallas Morning News. 'He showed up in shape, ready for a collegiate workout. It looks like he's come here to succeed, and you'd better not get in his way. I think he's proud to be a chip off the old block.'
Aaron was 10 when his father's plane flew uncontrolled over the country before crashing in South Dakota. He played in the Father-Son Challenge three years ago with two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, one of his father's best friends.
Going to SMU was no accident.
'The heritage that my father left here helped out in the decision,' Stewart told the Morning News. 'But I also liked how the team was structured, and I liked the coach. I felt that players get better here.'
Phil Mickelson wearing his caddie's tennis shoe to wade into a pond and play from the hazard at the Presidents Cup was not a spontaneous decision.
Years ago, caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay said they were playing on a sunny day when Mickelson was in a bunker with white sand. It was so bright in the bunker that Mickelson asked to borrow his caddie's sunglasses, and that got them to thinking what other items a player could use that belonged to his looper.
'He asked about shoes, and the rules official at the time told him he could,' Mackay said.
So when the opportunity presented itself on the 15th hole at Royal Montreal, Mackay took off his size-14 sneaker and gave it to the Mickelson -- the left shoe, naturally -- but not without twice checking with referee John Paramor.
Mackay, by the way, wore a different pair of shoes the next day.
David Duval plans to play in the Del Webb Father-Son Challenge with his wife's son, Deano, a senior in high school. ... Fred Klauk, the superintendent for the TPC Sawgrass, will retire after 25 years. His retirement is effective after The Players Championship next year. ... The Senior British Open will be held in 2009 at Sunningdale, the first time it is not held on a links course. ... Lee Westwood is trying to get in shape, and his waist size already is down from 40 inches to 34 inches. There's no secret to his fitness regimen. 'Spit out all the things that taste nice and do the gym four times a week,' he said. ... The Mexico Open will be added to the Nationwide Tour in 2008. Past champions of this national open include Bobby Locke, Roberto De Vicenzo, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw. ... Justin Leonard's playoff victory at the Texas Open leaves Rick Fehr as the only player who has not won a playoff on the PGA TOUR with at least four attempts.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Winners of the first three Fall Series events have a combined 19 victories on the PGA TOUR.
'I still believe there's no motivational speech you can make to a guy who's playing poorly. And if he's playing great, you can't say anything to screw him up.' -- Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x