Notes Slumans Back and Lefty Goes Left

By Associated PressMay 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jeff Sluman couldn't even finish last week in New Orleans, forced to withdraw during the final round with a bad back.
After two days of treatment and a couple more of just being careful, the 47-year-old veteran is having little problems in the Wachovia Championship. A 2-under 70 Friday left him tied for eighth at 141, four shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
Sluman would have been much closer if not for a double bogey on the 18th hole.
'I was happy with it,' the 1988 PGA champ said. 'I really wasn't obviously happy with the way I finished, but I hit the shots the way I wanted. So overall, I got no complaints.'
Particularly after his injury last Sunday. He went back home to Chicago and did some rehab on his back, then came to Quail Hollow in time to play three holes Tuesday. He got through the pro-am with no flare-ups, and so far, he hasn't felt the pain through two rounds of the tournament, including a brisk, windy day Friday.
'It seems pretty good,' Sluman said. 'If it wasn't going to bother me today, then I'm probably home free for the most part - if I just don't something stupid with it.'
His problems on the final hole certainly weren't unique. The par-4 played at 478 yards in the second round, with a steady breeze blowing right into the player's faces. Sluman's drive found the creek down the left side, and after a drop, he hacked it out of the rough and still had about 120 yards left to the green.
He pitched on and two-putted for his 6.
'This golf course setup is fantastic, the conditions are playing firm and fast,' Sluman said. 'Now there's some skill involved. Let's see if you can control your ball flight. I think all in all, it was sort of prime out there today.'
And he's making the most of a new putting stroke. Sluman went to the claw putting grip in New Orleans and has enjoyed the results.
'I'm rolling the ball, I think, like I used to, at least,' he said. 'I've made a lot of putts, and hit a lot of good putts that came close to going in, which I haven't seen, quite frankly, in a number of years.'
Chris DiMarco isn't painfree, even while his game sure is.
The runner-up to Tiger Woods in the Masters nearly pulled out of the Wachovia Championship before it began, troubled by a sore neck. He made it to the first tee Thursday and managed a 2-over 74, then really got going in the second round.
Thanks to an eagle-birdie-birdie run late in his final nine, DiMarco tied Greg Owen and D.J. Trahan for low round of the day with a 67, moving him to 3 under and four shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
'I made about a 70-footer on No. 5 for eagle, chipped in for birdie on No. 6,' DiMarco said. 'Playing those holes 4 under usually helps the score pretty good.'
He's hopeful more treatment on his neck will help for the weekend.
'It hurt out there today,' he said. 'Obviously, looking up there and seeing good shots makes the pain a little bit less. And obviously, it didn't affect my play too much.'
Phil Mickelson was in contention, 2 under on the day to move within sight of the leaders.
One swing brought his progress to a screeching halt.
Lefty blocked a 6-iron well left on No. 17 and his ball found the water, leading to a double bogey. More troubles on 18 gave him a bogey and left him at even-par heading into the weekend.
'It was a tough course today with the wind,' Mickelson said. 'It played very difficult. But there were some low scores out there, too. Jeff Sluman in the group in front of me played pretty well, and Sergio (Garcia), the leader, he played under par. So it was out there.'
When asked about his tee shot on the 17th, Mickelson cut the question short.
'I knocked it in the water, made double. It happens,' he said.
One of his playing partners, Jonathan Kaye, also knocked it in the hazard there.
'Jonathan Kaye hit a good shot right in the middle of the green, landed on the front third and it still went in the water, so go figure,' Mickelson said.
Mercifully, the wind that the morning groups faced calmed later in the day, leaving the closing holes for the two-tee start - Nos. 9, 17 and 18 - a bit more playable.
At one point, the scoring average on the par-3 17th was 3.8. Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot in the water and made a double bogey, but he fared better than six players who made 6. Jimmy Walker and Brian Bateman did it in the same group.
Walker put it in the water short, and Bateman's shot bounced across the left side of the green before rolling off into the hazard. Daniel Chopra, Cameron Beckman, Tom Pernice Jr. and Ryan Palmer also made triple bogeys.
'It's downwind today,' Jeff Sluman said. 'We've got our names on our bags, so we're supposed to be able to hit the green. But it's still a very difficult shot, because the wind is gusting a little bit here and there, so you've got to get up and decide what kind of shot you want to hit.
'And you're still not guaranteed it's going to end up good.'
That also was the case at the ninth, a par-4 that was listed at 486 yards and left many players hitting fairway metals for their second shots. Pernice couldn't reach it even then, and many others were in the same predicament.
'I annihilated a drive, low and left, and it got caught up in the rough,' Dennis Paulson said. 'But I had only 213 yards to the front edge, and I just crushed a 2-iron, and it still came up 8 yards short of the green.'
Beckman, also in Paulson's group, had 270 yards left for his approach to the hole, set 32 yards deep in the 37-yard green.
'It's just playing ridiculous, and it's a bad pin for how it's playing, too,' Paulson said. 'They had a couple of holes that were marginal setup today.'
He added No. 6 to the list of problems, a par-3 that measured 263 yards.
'Just your average par-3,' Paulson quipped. 'We all hit it on the green there, and I made birdie, but it's brutal.'
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Wachovia Championship

  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship

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    Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    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.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    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.