Snippets From a Colorful 2004

By Associated PressDecember 28, 2004, 5:00 pm
With so much focus on technology, Vijay Singh used rather primitive tools in his search for a swing that made him the No. 1 player in golf.
He placed a red shaft at his feet to help with alignment. He stuck another into the ground at an angle behind the red shaft. There was a water bottle about 12 inches behind and to the right of the ball. Then he neatly folded a golf glove and tucked it under his left arm.
It was a maze of simple objects that allowed him to groove his swing, and no one can argue with the results. Only five other players ever won as many as nine times in one PGA Tour season. No one ever won more than $10 million.
'It worked with my golf swing,' Singh said. 'When I get on the course, I don't have anything on me. I just go and play, and it keeps everything on line.'
The stars were certainly aligned for the 41-year-old Fijian, leaving the most lasting image of 2004. Here are some other moments that went beyond birdies and bogeys, a silver claret jug and a 14-inch gold cup:
--- Mathias Gronberg had a minor issue with how his name was spelled at the Nissan Open. It didn't include two dots over the 'o,' which in Sweden makes for an entirely different vowel.
When he asked for the Swedish vowel, a tournament official told him, 'If you're going to play in this country, you have to bring your own dots.'
For the last two rounds, Gronberg used a black pen to mark two dots in his name on the back of his caddie's bib.
--- Kevin Sutherland was in the lead Saturday at The Players Championship, the first time he had at least a share of the 36-hole lead in eight years.
His wife, Mary, dropped off their son at day care before coming out to the TPC at Sawgrass. But after nine holes, she decided it was time to pick up 3-year-old Keaton. Like most parents, she likes to stick to a routine.
'We're not used to playing this late on the weekend,' she said.
--- A corporate outing the day before the 'Battle at the Bridges' included Ron Drapeau, the CEO of Callaway Golf. During a backup on the 18th tee, Drapeau noticed someone hitting the Callaway VFT driver, introduced in 2000.
'You're about seven technologies behind,' Drapeau said. 'Here, try this one.'
He handed the amateur a new ERC Fusion and a Callaway HX Tour Black golf ball. The tee shot tailed off a little to the right, not much different from the first shot.
The man handed Drapeau the driver and said he would return the ball if he found it.
'Don't worry about that,' Drapeau replied smugly. 'I can get as many of those as I want.'
The next day, he was forced out at Callaway.
--- For the last decade, Liezl Els has been drawing maps of every hole at the major championships and charting every shot struck by her husband, Ernie, and whoever is playing with him.
Whistling Straits presented a stern test for her, too.
If the severe mounds and bluffs along Lake Michigan were not difficult enough to sketch, the links-styled course also has some 1,400 bunkers, even though only a fraction were in play.
As she walked along the 11th fairway in the first round, someone asked her how it was going.
Never bashful about speaking her mind, she said, 'I refuse to draw any of these bunkers unless he gets in one. This is ridiculous.'
Three holes later, Els pulled his tee shot into a massive bunker on the 14th.
Liezl was standing on a bluff, scribbling away.
--- The World Golf Championships have their own criteria for qualifying, which can lead to some confusion.
Tiger Woods was in the locker room at Firestone after the second round of the NEC Invitational, talking about the upcoming Ryder Cup. He was reminiscing about the '02 matches at The Belfry and was asked a hypothetical question. If Phil Mickelson had beaten Philip Price, and assuming Woods had held off Jesper Parnevik, did he think Davis Love III would have won the last hole to defeat Pierre Fulke and win the Ryder Cup?
Woods paused, and then his eyes lit up.
'That's what Fulke is doing here,' Woods said.
Fulke has played so badly the last two years that he wasn't eligible for any of the majors in 2004. He got into Firestone because he was on Europe's '02 Ryder Cup team.
--- A scene at the Canadian Open showed that kids can compete on the PGA Tour, but there is still plenty to learn about being a professional.
At the far end of a walkway, with fans lined up behind a fence seeking autographs, Davis Love III had finished signing and was speaking to an elderly gentleman. Love looked him in the eye, gave him an e-mail address of his design company and didn't walk away until the conversation was over.
Casey Wittenberg, who left Oklahoma State after his freshman year to turn pro, was standing about 10 feet away with his neck leaning on his shoulder. He was talking on his cell phone, grabbing programs and scribbling his name without ever looking at the fans, dialed into his phone conversation.
--- The running joke after Europe demolished the United States in the Ryder Cup was that Bernhard Langer was voted the best European captain in history, and Hal Sutton came in second.
Paul McGinley didn't find that funny.
One of his lasting memories from Oakland Hills was meeting in the hotel at 4:30 a.m. the Monday after to take a bus to the airport. Sutton and his wife, Ashley, were downstairs in the lobby to shake the hand of every player and give them a proper send-off.
That, to me, is what the Ryder Cup is all about, McGinley said.
Asked about his final act of sportsmanship, Sutton laughed and said, That's the best we can do when we get our (behinds) kicked.
--- Too bad Jan Stephenson wasn't at the reception at Mar-A-Lago in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Rolex honored Shi Hyun Ahn of South Korea as LPGA Tour rookie of the year.
Stephenson said last year that Asians were absolutely killing the LPGA Tour because of their refusal to speak English. Ahn speaks almost exclusively Korean, but she took a bold step before a large crowd.
She decided to give her acceptance speech in English, and her nerves were obvious.
Ahn waved her speech in front of her face to cool her face. She kept reaching for a glass of water. As she was being introduced, Ahn cast her eyes to the ceiling and repeatedly mouthed the words to her speech in rehearsal.
Dressed in an elegant pink dress, Ahn stood behind the podium and slowly enunciated each word. She thanked Rolex, which sponsors the award; Louise Suggs, an LPGA founder after whom the award is named; her parents; and the LPGA for giving her the opportunity.
I'm proud to be a member of this association, she said.
With a loud ovation ringing in her ears, Ahn returned to her seat, bowed her head and covered her face.
It was a command performance.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

“If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

“I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”

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So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

Horschel told last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

“I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

“Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

“I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

“We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

“We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

“But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

“They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

And now?

Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

“Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

“Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

“I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

“That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

“It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.