Notes The Story of Bambi

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Ron Levin is called 'Bambi' by his peers because he first went to work as a tour caddie when he was 17 and looks young compared with most other loopers. He has spent half his life as a caddie, working on just about every tour imaginable.
Still, he would not have been on the 18th green at Royal Troon hugging his boss - British Open champion Todd Hamilton - if not for a freak encounter a dozen years ago at Muirfield, and visa problems involving another caddie.
The strange sequence of events started when Hamilton won the Asian Tour money list, which got him into the 1992 British Open at Muirfield. Levin was working for D.A. Weibring that week, but Weibring didn't make it through final qualifying.
'He had met a girl that was working at a bed and breakfast that we were staying at,' Hamilton recalled. 'She mentioned to him, 'There's a golfer staying at our place that is looking for a caddie.' I was told to look for him in the parking lot.'
Hamilton missed the cut with Bambi on the bag, although they stayed in touch over the years.
Now, fast-forward to the start of the season. Hamilton got his PGA Tour card through Q-school, but his regular caddie in Japan (a Canadian resident) has been having trouble getting his visa sorted out.
'I saw him (Levin) out earlier this year and I told him the situation,' Hamilton said. 'I said, 'You're more than welcome to caddie for me if you'd like for the rest of the year.''
The rest is history. They won together at the Honda Classic, which got Hamilton into the Masters and secured his PGA Tour card for two years. And they won the biggest of them all at Royal Troon, which makes Hamilton exempt on tour and for the majors the next five years.
'He was very instrumental,' Hamilton said Sunday. 'He kept me calm. He knew what today was all about. If I could saw that claret jug in half and give him half, I'd gladly do it.'
British Amateur champion Stuart Wilson was flirting with the lead in the first round of the British Open, but ended his week at Royal Troon with rounds of 75-77-76 and tied for 63rd.
Still, he wound up with the silver medal as the low amateur, and the only one to make the cut.
'This is what I came here to achieve, and to pick up the silver medal is a special honor,' he said. 'I've played alongside a lot of good players. The reception from the crowd has been fantastic. And to play all four rounds was really special.'
The only tough moment came during the practice round, when security made him park in a different lot.
'I think the marshals were looking for something a bit plusher than a Ford Fiesta,' he said.
Next up for Wilson is the Masters, which gives an invitation to the British Amateur champion. He also wants to play in the Walker Cup next year before deciding whether to turn pro.
K.J. Choi is trying to speak English in more of his interviews, a noble effort considering it makes the amiable South Korean feel uncomfortable.
He has lived in the United States the last five years, moving to Houston in 2001. His best teacher is 7-year-old son David, who is in school and speaks English better than Korean.
'David tries to teach me a few phrases, and I try to catch them,' Choi said. 'He's like an American kid. He's forgetting his Korean. I'm worried about it. English is perfect. Korean, 40 to 50 percent. Sometimes, he doesn't understand me.'
As more college players are leaving school early to turn pro, two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Ryan Moore says he will stay at UNLV all four years.
'It's always been something I thought about,' Moore said of playing on the PGA Tour. 'But I really want a team championship. That's what you play college for. You don't go there for all the individual titles. This is your one time, four years of your life, you get to play as a team.'
Moore now has even more reason to stay in school. His second victory in the Publinx gets him back to the Masters, where he made the cut two years ago.
That's also where he played a practice round with Arnold Palmer, who had a word with Moore's father about not rushing into professional golf.
'He said that too many guys make the mistake of going a little early instead of kicking back and enjoying themselves ... which is what I'm looking forward to next year,' Moore said.
Going into the PGA Championship, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are the only players who can finish in the top 10 in all four majors this year.
A dozen others will try to make the cut in all majors, still exclusive company. They are K.J. Choi, Vijay Singh, Chris DiMarco, Nick Price, Retief Goosen Charles Howell III, Steve Flesch, Shaun Micheel, Scott Verplank, Jerry Kelly and Tiger Woods, who has never missed the cut in a major as a pro.
On the other side are the five players who have missed the cut in all three majors - Thomas Bjorn, Brian Davis, Nick Faldo, Australian amateur Nick Flanagan and Chad Campbell, who missed the last two by a single shot.
Ernie Els looked distraught after losing the British Open in a playoff. Imagine how the guy felt who placed the largest single wager ever in the Open - 62,500 pounds on Els at 8-1 odds at the start of the week. He stood to get about $935,000. ... Mark Calcavecchia, who made birdie out of the rough just to make the cut, had a chance to finish in the top 10 at the British Open, but he was knocked out when Tiger Woods made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole. ... Most people commonly refer to hybrid fairway metals as the Rescue club, which is made by Taylor Made and was the first prominent product on the market. Todd Hamilton is sponsored by Taylor Made. So what was that club that he used to save par on the final hole of the playoff? A hybrid club made by Sonartec. ... Fred Funk, who skipped the British Open so he could try to get Ryder Cup points at the B.C. Open, tied for 40th.
Phil Mickelson, who leads the money list, would be 12th based on his performance in the three majors alone. He has earned $2,350,965 from the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
'This course has a lot of history.' - Fred Funk on En-Joie Golf Club, site of the B.C. Open, which he played instead of the British Open.
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    O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

    DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

    The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

    David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

    Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

    Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    ''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

    ''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

    Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

    But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

    ''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

    The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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    Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

    Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

    In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

    Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

    The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

    “It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

    Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

    “Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

    ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

    “There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

    ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

    “It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”

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    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

    A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

    ''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

    Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    ''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

    Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

    ''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

    Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

    Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.