Snippets From a Colorful 2004
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.
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
''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.''