Notes Love Bothered By Bad Back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2004, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Davis Love's chances at defending his title at The Players Championship were in trouble before he finished warming up. They were almost nonexistent by the time he reached the fifth tee box.
Love tweaked his back hitting 1-irons on the driving range before his opening round Thursday, which helps explain how he shot a 5-over-par 77, 12 strokes behind leader Adam Scott and in jeopardy of missing the cut.
Love started with three bogeys and a double bogey over the first four holes and stood at 6-over before the clock struck 10 a.m.
I got off to a bad start,'' he said. I don't know if it's because of the back stuff, or if it's just because I got off to a bad start.''
Like a lot of players on Tour, Love is no stranger to back problems; he said they come and go'' all the time. He hoped he could walk off his pain on the way to the first tee, but it never went away. He checked with a trainer at the turn and the trainer told him to keep trying it.
I thought I was making some good shots. I just wanted to make a birdie,'' he said.
He did, but only one. Now, he's on the verge of missing the cut, which would guarantee there would still not be a back-to-back champion in the 31 years of this tournament. There's also a chance he could withdraw.
If it feels like it did out there today, I might not play, but I don't know,'' Love said. I'd like to get out there, get five birdies in a row like I did last year. If you can get to even-par before the weekend, you might have a chance.''
John Daly's quest to make the Masters got a boost when he shot 69 in a bogey-free opening round.
Bogey-free, that doesn't happen to many times for me out here,'' said Daly, who has never finished higher than 16th in this event. I made some good pars, and good putts. I didn't shoot myself in the foot, anyway.''
Daly saved a pair of tough pars on Nos. 11 and 13. On the par-5 11th, he drove into the rough and hit his layup shot too far, also into the rough. An indifferent chip left him 53 feet from the cup and he needed a 7-footer to save par.
On the par-3 13th, Daly hit the ball to the back of the long green, 60 feet away. His lag putt wasn't great, but he made a 6-footer to save par again.
Buoyed by his win last month at Torrey Pines, Daly came into the week ranked ninth on the 2004 money list. He qualifies for the Masters if he's in the top 10 after this week, or if he can move up from 53rd into the top 50 in the world ranking. He needs to finish in the top 19 this week to reach those goals.
Some 18-year-olds go to the beach for spring break. Others go home and veg. Justin Perry is working -- as a caddie for his father.
Kenny Perry hired'' his son this week, hoping to spend a little quality time with Justin before he heads off to college. Kenny figured it might change his luck at The Players Championship, too.
I've never played that well here,'' he said. So, I figured it was a win-win situation.''
This was the first time on the bag for Justin, who earned a golf scholarship at Lipscomb University, and will enroll in the fall.
I was a little nervous,'' Justin said. When he started off with a couple birdies, that helped things.''
With help of those two early birdies and a 32 over his first nine holes, Perry shot 3-under to stay well in contention.
The TPC boasts the biggest purse on the PGA Tour, which leads to the question, what is Justin's cut if his dad wins?
Kenny Perry played it coy: I think I've paid him enough,'' he joked.
Last year, it was Jay Haas. This year -- at least so far -- it's Craig Stadler who is showing that the old guys can still play.
The Walrus used his putting touch to overcome an erratic round and finish at 2-under, five off the lead and very close to the leaderboard.
The 50-year-old Stadler, who last year became just the second player to win on the PGA and the Champions Tours in the same season, said it shouldn't be a shock that the older guys can still hang a bit. Last year, at age 50, Haas finished tied for second.
Stadler credited his good round mostly to putting.
It seems like as you get older, the putter keeps getting better,'' he said. If you keep the putter hot, you have a chance.''
Of course, after an up-and-down round that included four bogeys and six birdies, Stadler wasn't predicting victory.
I'd like to be around on Sunday afternoon, but I'm not sure I can. I hit a lot of suspect shots today,'' he said.
There were 43 birdies made on the 18th hole, shattering the previous record of 24. No. 18 is the toughest hole in the 22 years the tournament has been played on the Stadium Course, playing at an average of .362 strokes over par. ... Mike Weir opened his round with 14 straight 4s, and closed with two more en route to a 74. ... David Peoples saw what could have been an excellent round get away from him when he hit his third shot on No. 10 into the pine straw near the cart path adjoining the 11th hole. With no clear shot to the green, he had to chip out, then hit his next shot off hardpan. He made a 7 and finished at 72. ... Craig Perks, the 2002 champion, shot 70. ... Fred Funk hit two balls into the water on No. 17, the island hole, for a 7.
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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “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, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. 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.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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    Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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.