Notes Villegas hard work Skins without Freddie

By Associated PressSeptember 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
BMW ChampionshipNEW YORK ' Camilo Villegas works hard, sets goals and stays organized so he can manage his time. Those are good attributes for any PGA TOUR player.
 
But thats what it took for him just to survive college.
 
Villegas struggled with his English when he left Colombia to attend the University of Florida, where he found himself in classrooms with as many as 300 students. He could understand better than he could speak, and reading took time.
 
But he graduated in 2004 with a degree in business and a GPA of 3.8.
 
Reading, it was very slow, but it was good, Villegas said. When you have classes with 300, 400 students, I didnt see the point of showing up. I just got my book, I read it, and I went and took the test. It took time, and obviously coming to Florida and having all those new opportunities was a little overwhelming.
 
But you have to just really manage your time, have a good plan for every day and stick to it.
 
The hardest aspect of a new country was speaking, and Villegas said it didnt help that he was shy. In golf terms, he decided to start firing at flags.
 
One day I said, You know what? Hell with it. Im just going to open my mouth, and whatever comes out, comes out,' he said. If somebody is going to make fun of me, Ill say, Hey, instead of laughing at me, why dont you tell me the correct way of saying it? And I got better.
 
LOWERING THE BOOM-BOOM
 
The four-man field for the LG Skins Game was announced last week, and the biggest news was who would not be playing at Indian Wells over Thanksgiving weekend.
 
How can there be a Skins Game without Fred Couples?
 
Couples is playfully known as the King of the Silly Season, especially the Skins Game. He has played 14 times, captured 95 skins and earned over $4.2 million, more than he has made playing in the majors.
 
Instead, defending champion Stephen Ames will join Phil Mickelson, K.J. Choi and Rocco Mediate.
 
Im glad Im not playing, Couples said at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he missed the cut. Im done with golf. I was feeling so good, but I think Im playing too much. This may be my last real event.
 
Couples did not express disappointment, but a tinge was evident. He said he was hopeful of playing again, but he was pleased for Choi and Mediate. And no, Couples did not ask for an exemption.
 
I cant be picked every year, he said. I played enough. And it was fun.
 
PAYBACK
 
Mike Weir had to grind out a 67 in the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, go through a series of interviews that took about a half-hour, then get to the practice range to hit balls before sunset.
 
Time to go home?
 
Not quite. Weir then spent the next 30 minutes mingling with volunteers at the TPC Boston, setting an example that did not go unnoticed by Seth Waugh, the tournament host and CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas.
 
Mike is a class act, Waugh said. That comes from his upbringing.
 
But it wasnt just Weir. A month before the tournament, Brandt Snedeker and Anthony Kim agreed to come to Boston for a media day. Neither of them were the defending champion. It helped that tournament officials arranged for Kim to take batting practice with the Red Sox.
 
MAJOR DUTY
 
Padraig Harrington came back to the TPC Boston on Sunday to clean out his locker after missing the cut when he found a stack of flags from the British Open and PGA Championship that someone wanted signed.
 
Without a hint of bother, Harrington sat down on a bench and began signing.
 
Oh, good thing I opened this. Its from Jim Furyk, he said, reading a note inside from Furyks wife, Tabitha.
 
Someone watching him sign pointed out that this is what is asked of a guy who wins the British Open and PGA Championship.
 
Harrington then recalled a conversation with 07 Masters champion Zach Johnson.
 
If I ever say Im tired of signing, someone please club me over the head with a 9-iron, Harrington said. And when I come to, explain to me what happened. And then Ill happily continue to sign.
 
DOUBLE DUTY
 
Jim Bones Mackay stays busy enough looking after Phil Mickelson. But the longtime caddie for the worlds No. 2 player was scrambling Saturday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
 
Mickelson played in the morning. Mackays brother, Tom, was to be married that evening in Vermont.
 
And he managed to be there for both.
 
He had the option to take the day off, the week off, whatever he wanted, Mickelson said. But it shows what hes like. Hes truly the best at what he does.
 
Mackay got a huge break when Mickelson received the late-early draw, meaning he finished about 1 p.m. Saturday. He thought about chartering a helicopter, but learned it was even cheaper to charter a jet.
 
We got to the wedding about 15 minutes before it started, Mackay said.
 
He hired a driver to bring him back so he wouldnt fall asleep on the way back to Boston. Mackay arrived back at his hotel about 3:30 a.m., got a few hours sleep and was back on the bag Sunday for an 8 a.m. tee time.
 
DIVOTS
 
Helen Alfredsson, Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis will represent the LPGA in the Wendys 3-Tour Challenge, which will be held Nov. 11 at Rio Secco in Las Vegas. The Monterey Institute of International Studies in California has offered its services to the LPGA to design a custom language learning program for its international members. Not only does it offer a world-class language facility, the players have ample golf courses on which to practice along the Monterey Peninsula. Fred Couples failed to make the cut in a major this year for the first time since his rookie season in 1981, when he wasnt eligible for any of them.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
 
Europes entire Ryder Cup team is in the top 50 of the world ranking. The United States has two players outside the top 50 ' Chad Campbell (53) and J.B. Holmes (55).
 
FINAL WORD
 
Im tired of watching him on tape win all these tournaments. I want to see him win some tournaments live. ' Paul Azinger, on Tiger Woods missing the rest of the year.
 
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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.