Notes Tiger Controversy Alive One Year Later

By Associated PressJuly 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- One year later, the three-story clubhouse at Firestone is still a hot topic of conversation. And it still doesn't have white stakes around the perimeter to mark it out-of-bounds.
 
'Same as it's been for 50-something years,' PGA TOUR rules official Slugger White said Tuesday.
 
Tiger Woods' victory in the Bridgestone Invitational last year came with an enormous break in the second round when his 9-iron from the rough on the ninth hole sailed over the green, bounced off a cement path and onto the clubhouse roof, then fell off the other side into a service driveway where a member of the kitchen staff picked it up and drove away.
 
After a chaotic search, he was given free relief from the immovable obstruction -- the clubhouse -- and some of his peers (Sergio Garcia the noisiest) complained of unfair treatment.
 
White said Colonial has the only clubhouse he could recall that is marked out-of-bounds, and TOUR officials saw no need to change simply because of one bizarre incident. The only difference this year is that Warner Road -- the street separating the South course from the North course at Firestone -- is listed as out-of-bounds.
 
Dillard Pruitt was the official who made the ruling, using a two-way radio to figure out where Woods was allowed to drop, which turned out to be between the first tee and the driving range. Woods wound up with a bogey, and he ultimately beat Stewart Cink in a playoff.
 
Pruitt said had no one found the ball, Woods might have received a really good break -- a free drop behind the green, because that's where the ball was last spotted before being lost in the obstruction.
 
CHOI CHALLENGE:
K.J. Choi can think of 10 million reasons why he wants to win the FedEx Cup, and it adds up to one reason why he might be a sentimental favorite.
 
'If I'm able to win it, I want to give it all to charity, 100 percent,' Choi said Tuesday.
 
The FedEx Cup is a yearlong points race that culminates with four tournaments at the end of the year, with the winner getting $10 million in deferred compensation. Choi was asked what it would feel like to be paired with Tiger Woods in the final group with something that large riding on the outcome. That led him to talk about charity.
 
'I could think of so many things I could do with that money, so many good things,' Choi said through his agent and interpreter, Michael Yim of IMG. 'I want to help a lot of the unfortunate kids around the world. I want to set up my own foundation, like Tiger. Thinking about what I can do with that money, it just motivates me.
 
'I think I'd be too happy thinking about that to feel any pressure playing with Tiger,' he said. 'I'm looking forward to the PGA Championship and the FedExCup. It's just a lot of opportunity for me to do some good deeds for those kids that really need it.'
 
Choi already has won twice this year, at the Memorial and AT&T National, putting him at No. 5 in the FedEx Cup standings.
 
NICKLAUS FILES:
Jack Nicklaus played five majors at Southern Hills without winning, his best finish a tie for sixth in the 1970 PGA Championship. But he didn't leave empty-handed.
 
His first trip to Tulsa, Okla., was for the 1953 U.S. Junior Amateur. His opening match was at 7 a.m., and he recalls walking up to the tee about 30 seconds before his starting time. Former USGA executive director Joe Dey was waiting for him.
 
'Joe Dey looked at me and said, 'Young man, 30 seconds later, you would be starting 1 down on the second tee,'' Nicklaus said. 'He said, 'You need to show up to the starting time earlier than 30 seconds.' I never missed a starting time, I think largely due to that lesson. May not have won at Southern Hills, but I learned a lot of lessons, had a lot of fun.'
 
ROOKIE RACE:
The last five players to be voted PGA TOUR rookie of the year were a relatively simple choice because all had won at least one tournament, and two had won majors (Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton).
 
That might not be the case this year, although the race is no less compelling.
 
The leading candidates with three months remaining are Brandt Snedeker, Jeff Quinney, Anthony Kim and Stephen Marino, with Snedeker the presumed favorite.
 
Snedeker has five top 10s this year, including third place at the Buick Invitational, where he flirted with a 59 and settled for a record-tying 61 on the North course at Torrey Pines. He is 25th in the FedEx Cup standings and has earned $1.6 million.
 
Quinney also has five top 10s, including third place in the FBR Open when he squandered a back-nine lead. He is 34th in the standings.
 
Kim tied for fifth at the Wachovia Championship, his best finish among four top 10s, and is 36th in the standings. Marino has four top 10s, and his best finish was a tie for sixth at the AT&T Classic outside Atlanta. He is 59th in the standings.
 
All but Marino are in the field for the PGA Championship next week, and likely will qualify for the first three playoff events.
 
DIVOTS:
The PGA of America has signed an endorsement deal with the Royal Bank of Scotland. ... The Canadian Women's Open will be played next year at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the club. ... The Tour de las Americas has become an associate member of the International Federation of PGA Tours. Among other things, associate membership allows it to host a World Golf Championship event. The tour staged 14 events last year.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Tiger Woods has earned $6.587 million in nine appearances at Firestone. He has never finished lower than fifth.
 
FINAL WORD:
'If you compare it to Tiger or Vijay or Phil, 13 doesn't sound like a lot. But there's a hell of a lot of guys out there (that) 13 sounds like a lot to.' -- Jim Furyk, whose Canadian Open victory was the 13th of his PGA TOUR career.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.