Predictions are a Risky Business in Golf

By Associated PressJanuary 1, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii -- To listen to Zach Johnson and Paul Goydos is to be reminded that golf always holds a few surprises.
 
Johnson was asked to go back one year and rank the majors in order of which he was most likely to win. He would have put the Masters last on his list, and it still seems surreal to have a green jacket in his closet.
 
Goydos won the Bay Hill Invitational in 1996 and didn't win another PGA TOUR event until the Sony Open last year. He returned to the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship for the first time in 11 years, during which time Tiger Woods turned pro and won 61 times.
 
'If you would have told me when I won that from '97 through '07 that some guy was going to win 60 times, I would say that you're out of your mind,' Goydos said. 'There's just no way. That's not going to happen.'
 
Predictions can be a dangerous business, especially in golf, and there's no telling how 2008 is going to unfold.
 
The new season begins Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, the earliest start on the PGA TOUR since 2002, and there's a chance history could repeat itself. It was in 2002 that Woods won the first two legs of the Grand Slam, and that's a possibility considering the U.S. Open will be held this year at Torrey Pines, where Woods has won five times.
 
Or maybe not. That also was the year Ty Tryon was on the PGA TOUR, no one conceived of women playing on men's tours and the Ryder Cup was still closely contested.
 
Gazing into the crystal ball, here's one timeline of what might happen in 2008:
 
Jan. 6 -- Stephen Ames, feeling right at home after buying a time share at Kapalua, wins the Mercedes-Benz Championship for his second straight PGA TOUR victory, leaving him nine short of Byron Nelson's record.
 
Jan. 15 -- Roger Clemens attends a voluntary meeting at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on the tour's anti-doping policy and is relieved to learn drug testing doesn't start until July 8 -- and then only for golfers.
 
Jan. 27 -- For the fourth straight year, Tiger Woods opens his season with a victory in the Buick Invitational. He wins by 15 shots in a tuneup for the U.S. Open.
 
Jan. 28 -- The PGA TOUR runs its first FedEx Cup commercial, sticking with the theme, 'Who will be the first to kiss the cup?'
 
Feb. 28 -- John Daly withdraws from the Honda Classic.
 
April 6 -- Davis Love III birdies the last two holes to win the Shell Houston Open and qualify for the Masters.
 
April 13 -- Tiger Woods wins the Masters by one shot over Love.
 
April 14 -- The PGA TOUR runs its second FedEx Cup commercial, noting the cup still hasn't been kissed.
 
April 20 -- Ernie Els wins the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, his first PGA TOUR victory on U.S. soil in nearly four years.
 
May 11 -- Phil Mickelson becomes the first player to win back-to-back years at THE PLAYERS Championship. He calls for a tour vote to make THE PLAYERS a major, but the vote against is 241-2. Mickelson and Love cast the only votes in favor.
 
June 12 -- The first round of the U.S. Open is postponed because of fog.
 
June 13 -- Half the field doesn't start the first round of the U.S. Open, which again is delayed by fog.
 
June 14 -- Vijay Singh is disqualified from the U.S. Open after getting stuck in traffic and missing his tee time.
 
June 18 -- The U.S. Open concludes on Wednesday when Woods beats Steve Stricker by 15 shots in an 18-hole playoff.
 
July 6 -- Rory Sabbatini wins the AT&T National at Congressional, then announces he is donating the $1.08 million winner's check to help build the new Tiger Woods Learning Center.
 
July 8 -- Sabbatini is the first player tested for drugs.
 
July 19 -- Woods is in the second-to-last group in the third round at Royal Birkdale when a vicious wind off the Irish Sea turns the British Open upside down. He birdies the last hole to break 80.
 
July 20 -- Woods closes with 62 to win the British Open by one shot over Stricker, setting a major championship scoring record and winning from behind for the first time in a major.
 
Aug. 3 -- Fifty columnists change travel plans from Beijing to Detroit to cover Woods' bid for the Grand Slam.
 
Aug. 7 -- Mickelson, who already has won a career-high five times on tour, is disqualified from the PGA Championship when he shows up Thursday on the first tee of the other course at Oakland Hills.
 
Aug. 10 -- Woods birdies the last four holes, but finishes one shot behind Stricker in the PGA Championship.
 
Aug. 21 -- The PGA TOUR Playoffs begins at The Barclays. Woods decides to take that week off.
 
Sept. 21 -- Motivated by the Americans having four captain's picks, Europe wins the Ryder Cup, 18 1/2 -9 1/2 .
 
Sept. 28 -- Woods wins the FedEx Cup in a final-round duel over Stricker. PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem again reminds Woods that the cup has never been kissed. And it still isn't.
 
Sept. 29 -- Finchem is tested for drugs.
 
Oct. 14 -- Stricker wins the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda against three alternates when Woods declines to play.
 
Nov. 11 -- Fred Couples is named Ryder Cup captain and announces Michael Jordan and Robin Williams as his assistants.
 
Nov. 30 -- Having missed the last six months with a sore back, Couples recovers and wins the Skins Game.
 
Dec. 16 -- Stricker finishes the year at No. 2 in the world and is voted comeback player of the year for the third straight time.
 

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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''