Notes Sutton May Halt Play Until Ryder Cup
When will he play again? Maybe not until after the Ryder Cup in September.
'That's a possibility,' Sutton said. 'There's a lot of things going on in my life right now. I find I'm doing one thing and thinking about another thing. That's not going to work, and it's especially not going to work with my golf game. If need be, I'll play less to do the job I think needs to be done.'
He has played 12 tournaments this year, making five cuts. His best finish was a tie for 25th at New Orleans.
Sutton knew he might be stretched thin when he interviewed for the job, and he resigned from the PGA Tour policy board at the start of last year to create a little more time. But the captaincy means so much to him that he wants to channel all his spare time into the Sept. 17-19 matches.
Maybe it's an illustration how big the Ryder Cup has become.
Curtis Strange played only nine tournaments through the PGA Championship in 2001 (before the Ryder Cup was postponed by the Sept. 11 attacks) and made only two cuts, including a tie for fifth in Memphis. He was able to keep current through his work as an ABC analyst.
Ben Crenshaw, whose game already was deteriorating, played 13 times and missed 13 cuts in 1999.
The exception in recent years was Tom Kite, one of the great grinders on tour.
During the last year of his Ryder Cup captaincy in 1997, Kite played 19 tournaments through the PGA and was an occasional contender. He was runner-up at the Masters (12 shots behind Tiger Woods) and was fifth at the PGA. Some suggested he make himself a captain's pick.
Even after the Ryder Cup, Sutton is not sure how much longer he will play. He started working for ABC this year, and the departure of Strange opens up possibilities.
'I might be at a turning point in my life, in terms of where I go career-wise,' Sutton said. 'ABC comes into the picture. I don't know where that's going to go.'
Whatever Tiger Woods is working on with his swing, he doesn't want anyone to know.
Woods has been cagey with answers about what he says are minor changes. Asked to explain them during an interview last week at the Memorial, he replied, 'I'd rather not get into that. It will just get critiqued and overly analyzed.'
In the final round Sunday, there was a special camera set up on the fifth tee. Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, placed the golf bag in front of the camera to keep it off Woods' swing.
In a story that might make the relationship between Tiger Woods and Butch Harmon even icier, Harmon tells the Daily Telegraph in London about running into Phil Mickelson two weeks before the Masters.
Harmon told the newspaper he was walking down the range at The Players Championship when Phil Mickelson said to him, 'I need you to do me a favor. If your cell phone rings in the next two weeks and it's got an Orlando (area) code, don't answer it.'
Woods lives outside Orlando, Fla., and talk of his game -- and his split with Harmon -- was a hot topic right before the Masters.
'When we got to Augusta, I saw Phil on the range and he said, 'He didn't call, did he?'' Harmon said. 'I said, 'No, Phil, you're safe. You're going to win this week.''
Mickelson won his first major. Woods tied for 22nd, his worst finish ever as a pro at Augusta National.
Jack Gets His Answer
Jack Nicklaus is satisfied there won't be any more big gains in the golf ball, especially after meeting last week with USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge.
Rugge met with The Captains Club at the Memorial, which has several influential leaders and had written the USGA, Royal & Ancient, PGA Tour and others last year to complain about the distance the ball was going.
'They're putting a line in the sand to not let anything go any further,' Nicklaus said.
The USGA and R&A introduced a new test two weeks ago that uses a titanium driver instead of a wooden one and increased the swing speed from 109 mph to 120 mph.
The PGA Tour continues to gather data on how far the best players are hitting the ball, but Nicklaus said Rugge and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem have told him they don't believe the game is being hurt.
He said Rugge's meeting with The Captains Club should not suggest the USGA is about to start rolling back the ball.
'There are no dots to connect,' Nicklaus said. 'What we need to do is take a year or two years to gather information before we even think about it. I think that's fair.'
Nicklaus said the USGA has made and sent to him golf balls that are scaled back, although he hasn't hit them.
'I'm not interested in hitting a golf ball that goes shorter now,' he said.
Asked about those golf balls, Rugge said they came from a 'well-evolved' project at the USGA that allows rules makers to better understand technology.
'I've got three engineers working hard on that,' Rugge said. 'We're learning more about balls. We need to explore all facets of the design and different performance characteristics.'
Craig Camarolli, the caddie for Dudley Hart, picked up $100 for eating a cicada during the pro-am round at the Memorial. Then, his boss got food poisoning and had to withdraw after the first round. ... There were 2,220 entries for the British Open this year at Royal Troon. ... Stephen Ames is 58-under-par in his last seven tournaments, with six top 10s and a tie for 13th. That has taken him to 11th on the PGA Tour money list with a career-high $1.7 million. ... Annika Sorenstam is wearing her own clothing line this week at the LPGA Championship, designed by longtime sponsor Cutter & Buck.
Stat Of The Week
Karrie Webb won her 30th LPGA Tour event last week, the previous standard for getting into the Hall of Fame. Under the new system, Webb earned enough points for the Hall of Fame four years ago.
'It wasn't as exciting.' -- Annika Sorenstam, who watched part of the Colonial this year on TV.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might
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.”
McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks
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.”
Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic
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.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com 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 Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com 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.