Steve Williams Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2002, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- With $200,000 on the line, Tiger Woods dug his feet in the bunker, waggled his sand wedge over the ball and was at the top of his swing when the silence was pierced by a nerve-racking noise he has come to despise.
Even more outrageous was the sound that followed.
Not long after someone took a premature picture of Woods at the Skins Game, caddie Steve Williams took the law -- or the lens, in this case -- into his own hands and deposited the camera in the pond surrounding the 18th green at Landmark Golf Club.
The question is: Who crossed the line?
Does a caddie have the right to destroy someone's property?
'Just because he's Tiger Woods' caddie doesn't give him the right to do that,' Vijay Singh said. 'It may have been spur of the moment, but I cannot say it was good what he did. If my caddie did that, I'd make him fish it out of the lake.'
Did the fan get what he deserved?
No one knew who the guy was, only that he was not authorized to have a camera or be stationed inside the ropes. Policies make it abundantly clear that cameras are not allowed once the tournament starts, although that has never stopped anyone before.
'Did Stevie throw the camera away? I've been wanting to do that for a long time,' Davis Love III said. 'I've taken them away from people, but I haven't smashed one or thrown one yet. I think it's fair.'
It was not clear whether Williams would be fined or ordered to reimburse the man, if he ever comes forward. Photojournalists who saw the camera said it was worth about $7,000.
Any fine -- and Woods said he expects one -- is assessed to the player, who then passes it along to the caddie. But not this time.
Woods said he would pick up the tab.
This is not the first time Woods has defended his Kiwi caddie.
During the 'Showdown at Sherwood' three years ago, a PGA Tour official told Williams he could not wear shorts, even though the temperature was pushing 90 degrees. When Williams refused to change, the official told the caddie he would no longer work on the PGA Tour.
'Guess I'll be playing in Europe next year,' Woods said, and that was the end of that.
In the case of the camera, Woods had reason to stand by his man.
He had to back off twice because of cameras on the opening hole at the British Open, where Woods was going for the third leg of the Grand Slam. An early click on the final hole in Ireland cost him a chance at his first bogey-free tournament. There were so many cameras in Germany that Woods felt as if he was model on a runway.
And those are just a few examples from this year.
'He backs off a lot more than you realize,' Mark O'Meara said.
The national photojournalists are guilty by association. The early clicks almost always come from those who don't cover golf, such as the Japanese photographer who got Woods on the first fairway at Muirfield and was puzzled when he was asked to leave.
The real problem stems from fans who come to the course with cameras, from marshals who spend more time watching golf than policing the crowds, and from tour officials who fail to enforce their policies.
'We've had poor camera control on the PGA Tour, and it's jeopardizing the integrity of the championship,' said Phil Mickelson.

That's not to say the answer is tossing cameras into the water.
'I don't think I would have handled it that way,' Mickelson said. 'But I can understand the frustration he must have felt. I don't have a problem with it.'
Woods is not the only victim of early clicks, but no one hears more. He still remembers the camera that clicked behind him as he teed off on the 18th hole at the 1997 Masters, a drive that wound up 60 yards left of the fairway.
'Thank God I had a big enough cushion,' said Woods, who was leading by 12 shots and made par to set the Masters scoring record.
Colin Montgomerie is known for his rabbit ears, whether it's a camera or an unruly fan, and even he defers to Woods when it comes to distractions on the course.
'Who am I to complain?' Monty said. 'He puts up with 20 times more than anyone else, and he does it so well. Every time I play with him, he has to back off. Look at the Open this year. Cameras were all over him.'
There weren't that many at the Skins game, but there was one too many.
'Not in my swing!' Woods yelled, cursing and glaring as his ball ran 15 feet by the hole.
That's when Williams snapped.
'I walked over to him and grabbed the camera,' Williams said.
'He put up a little resistance, but not much.'
Was Williams wrong?
'They put up with a lot, an awful lot,' Montgomerie said. 'I suppose it would be a shame if his late great aunt had been on the film, as well.'
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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.