Notes Singh loosens up Lucky shot of the day

By Associated PressMay 7, 2010, 4:39 am

The Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – At least one player loved the heat and humidity at The Players Championship on Thursday.

Fiji’s Vijay Singh, who lives a short drive from the Stadium Course, believes the warm weather helped loosen his back muscles for an opening round played in temperatures reaching near 90 degrees. He made four consecutive birdies beginning with the par-3 third and finished at 3-under 69, three shots behind leaders J.B. Holmes and Robert Allenby.

Singh, who withdrew from the Houston Open last month and missed the cut at the Masters and Quail Hollow, said his recent struggles stemmed from back spasms.

“This hot weather is doing it very good,” he said. “I’ve had no problems for a week now. I think it’s going to be OK.”

Singh took nearly three weeks off before the Masters, with his only practice coming from a few chip shots at the range.

“I didn’t do anything at all,” he said. “You just have to rest and try not to hurt, you know. So I had a lot of painkillers in me and muscle relaxers and that kind of thing just to release the muscles. … When you have an injury like mine, you just cannot do anything. It’s the worst kind of injury because it paralyzes you all over. You just have to rest, and there is nothing you can do.”

Singh practiced in tennis shoes earlier this week – looking as if he took notice of Fred Couples’ wardrobe at the Masters – but never considered wearing them for a round. Why not?

“There are too many guys yelling out, ‘Those are Freddy’s shoes you’ve got on,”’ Singh said. “So I kind of had enough of that.”

TWICE BITTEN: Greg Owen’s venture at the famed island green stood out for all the wrong reasons. The Englishman was the only player to hit into the murky water twice in the opening round.

Only seven balls ended up wet Thursday – and Owen had two of them.

He struggled with club selection, settled on an easy 9-iron and then came short from 124 yards away. He trudged to the drop area and chunked his second shot into the lagoon. His fifth stroke finally stayed dry, stopping more than 20 feet from the cup. He two-putted from there for quadruple bogey – the only score worse than double all day at TPC Sawgrass’ signature hole.

“I’m furious,” Owen said after he shot a 1-over 73. “It was two bad shots.”

It also was the difference between being in the hunt and being back in the pack.

“It’s The Players Championship, not a great year, I’m playing nicely and I go and do that,” said Owen, who has five missed cuts and a withdrawal in 12 tournaments this year. “You want me to be happy?”

PURE LUCK: Roland Thatcher may have had the shot of the day at the island green – or maybe just the luckiest shot of the day.

Thatcher pulled his tee shot left. His ball struck a wooden pylon, bounced high into the air, landed near the path leading to the green and rolled onto the paved part of the walkway. He got a drop from there, chipped past the hole and made a 10-footer for par.

“I thought it was wet the whole way,” Thatcher said after posting a 71. “And it deserved to be, too. To top it all off, I hit a marginal chip, then made a putt from the fringe. Added it all up and it was 3. … It’s certainly one of the most interesting 3s I’ve ever made. I can’t say it was the best considering there was a lot of bad shots involved.”

Thatcher got cheered wildly after his par.

“I felt like I had just won the golf tournament,” he said. “I got a nice little standing ovation walking underneath the tunnel over to 18.”

CADDIE SPEAKS: New Zealand’s Steve Williams, the caddie for Tiger Woods, was walking toward the clubhouse when a reporter he had never seen asked him for an interview.

It was an unusual sight – Williams set down the bag and spent the next 10 minutes giving an interview. He smiled, laughed at times, constantly made eye contract and listened closely to every question. He was in no hurry to leave.

The subject matter: racing, of course.

Williams spoke with Don Coble, who covers motors sports for the Morris Communications group that includes the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. Williams races on dirt tracks in New Zealand, and was proud to point out that he won the points series for his model of cars.

FATHER-SON DUO: Bill and Jay Haas became the first father-son combination to compete at The Players Championship on Thursday. They fared pretty well, too.

Bill shot a 68, three strokes better than his 56-year-old father. Neither watched the other play in the opening round, mostly because their tee times were about an hour apart.

Bill said he planned to call his dad later Thursday to talk about their rounds and get some feedback on the course conditions.

“The one guy I can call that knows how I’m feeling out there is him,” Bill said. “He’s been there. … It’s nice to have someone like that in the field that cares. I’ve got buddies that are playing, but they don’t generally care how I do. That’s what this game is. We’re individuals out here. I would say he’s the only player in this field that I can talk to about my round and he genuinely cares, and that’s kind of nice to have.”

COLOMBIAN CONNECTION: NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya walked 18 holes with fellow Colombian sports star Camilo Villegas, enjoying the kind of anonymity he never gets at racetracks.

“It was a lot of fun,” Montoya said. “Out here, I was just another golf fan.”

Montoya, an avid golfer with a single-digit handicap, said the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is now atop his list of courses he wants to play. When he does make it back for a round, he hopes to avoid trouble at the famed island green.

“It’s not that long. I was surprised,” he said. “But it didn’t look easy. It looks a lot tougher in person. It’s pretty impressive.”

Montoya is trying to get Villegas to travel to Darlington Raceway for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race. Of course, that would mean flying up after his round Saturday.

“I’m not so sure,” Villegas said.

DIVOTS: NFL kicker Josh Scobee, a scratch golfer who will try to qualify for the U.S. Open next week, volunteered at the course for the second straight year. He walked 18 holes Thursday with the three-man group featuring Tiger Woods, helping silence the crowd before shots. His next assignment? Walking with Phil Mickelson. … Eight-six players broke par in the first round, resulting in the lowest scoring average since 1993. … The par-4 14th was the toughest hole of the day, yielding just six birdies. The easiest was the par-5 second, which gave up six eagles and 68 birdies.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.