Notes Leonard Lifts Heavy Burden

By Associated PressNovember 21, 2003, 5:00 pm
GEORGE, South Africa -- Justin Leonard won the first Presidents Cup match he ever played in 1996. He had to wait seven years for the next one.
 
His record in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup was 1-9-5 coming into these matches, and it began to weigh on him when he and Jim Furyk went from a 2-up lead to a shocking loss over the final three holes in the first round at Fancourt.
 
He finally got his redemption Friday.
 
'That was a huge burden,'' Leonard said after teaming with Chris DiMarco in the morning (better-ball) and Furyk in the afternoon (alternate shot) for two victories.
 
'I was pretty down yesterday,'' he said. 'To finally win a match, that freed me up for the afternoon.''
 
It wasn't easy.
 
Leonard and DiMarco were 3-up with four holes to play when Vijay Singh and Nick Price won two of the next three, setting the stage for more disappointment on the 18th.
 
DiMarco came through with a second shot of 60 feet on the par-5 closing hole, and a lag to within inches for birdie. When Singh failed to chip in for eagle, Leonard had his victory.
 
The afternoon match was far less stressful.
 
Leonard and Furyk won three straight holes on the front nine and picked up another point without having to play the final four holes against Singh and Mike Weir.
 
PHIL THE THRILL
 
Phil Mickelson, coming off his worst season since he started playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour, has been making his share of putts this week, but continues to his struggle off the tee.
 
U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus still sent him out in the alternate-shot match Friday which is best-suited for guys who keep the ball in play.
 
Nicklaus was asked he had seen much of Mickelson this week.
 
'He's been hard to find,'' Nicklaus said as the room erupted in laughter.
 
'He'll do fine,'' Nicklaus added. 'He's so anxious to play, and play well. I've had Phil on teams before, and I've never seen him so enthused to want to play well.''
 
Mickelson certainly tried, holing a key birdie putt on the 17th to stay in the match. He and Chris DiMarco lost, 1-up, when Ernie Els holed an eagle chip off the green.
 
Mickelson is the only American who has not won a point.
 
DIVIDED ATTENTION
 
The International team has five Australians, all of whom will be playing in the alternate-shot matches Saturday.
 
That means they will miss the Australia-England final in the World Cup Rugby, which starts at 11 AM locally, about 30 minutes before the matches begin.
 
South Africa was eliminated two weeks ago, but has an intense rivalry with Australia.
 
'With rugby and golf, I'm hugging them one day and booting them the next,'' captain Gary Player said.
 
Adam Scott jokingly said his future was on the line Saturday.
 
'They had better win or I'll not be going back to Europe,'' the young Aussie said. 'I can barely show my face in London. I'll be in the States.''
 
TAKING A BREAK
 
The two oldest players for the United States - 49-year-old Jay Haas and 47-year-old Fred Funk - have each sat out a session.
 
Nicklaus said Haas asked for the break Friday afternoon, the only day of two matches.
 
Also asking for a break was Davis Love III, who suffered a migraine earlier in the week and also has nagging back and neck problems.
 
'I told Jack that I'd prefer to sit out, but not if he wanted to keep me out there. I mean, it's only really half of a match,'' Love said, referring to the alternate-shot format.
 
Nicklaus decided to sit him. Love also sat out during one of the four team sessions at the Ryder Cup last year.
 
'As you know, Davis had a little probem with his neck earlier in the week and he just said, 'If you can rest me, I'd like to. If not, I'll play,''' Nicklaus said. 'And we just felt Davis wanted to rest, so let him rest.''
 
DIVOTS: Five International team members have played all three matches with different partners - Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark and K.J. Choi. No American has had more than two partners so far, while Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III are the only team to play three matches together. ... Ernie Els said he had intended to invite the Americans to his beach house for a barbecue Friday night, but that his house was too small. ``Maybe Sunday,'' he said with a grin. ... Nicklaus and International captain Gary Player skipped their press conference Friday night so they wouldn't be late to the gala dinner, attended by former President Bush and South African president Thabo Mbeki.
 
Related Links:
  • Presidents Cup Scoring
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.