Tiger returns to Torrey Pines as a caddie

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2008, 4:00 pm
SAN DIEGO ' Four months after his epic U.S. Open victory, Tiger Woods returned to Torrey Pines on Monday without a limp.
 
He didnt have golf clubs, either.
 
Hopping from a cart, Woods walked up to 59-year-old John Abel, doffed his cap and extended his right hand. Hey, I hear youre looking for a caddie. Im Tiger Woods ' pleased to meet you.
 
Out of action since beating Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff for his 14th career major, Woods came back to Torrey Pines to deliver on his end of the Tee Off with Tiger online sweepstakes sponsored by Buick.
 
Showing no signs of his season-ending knee surgery a week after the U.S. Open, Woods wore a green caddies bib inscribed with Abels name as he guided him around the back nine of the South Course, where he has won six times in the Buick Invitational and once in a U.S. Open he called his best ever.
 
Playing with torn ligaments in his left knee and a double stress fracture in his leg, Woods made a 12-foot birdie on the final hole to force an 18-hole playoff, made a 4-foot birdie on the 18th in the playoff to stay alive and finally won with a par.
 
Woods checked into the Lodge at Torrey Pines on Sunday night and noticed the pin in the same spot it was during the Monday playoff.
 
I opened the curtains and saw the 18th green, Woods said. I was like, You know what? That is pretty cool. A different atmosphere. You can actually see. They dont have the grandstands in the way. I saw where the pin was and was thinking, You know what? I remember that putt.
 
Woods was in character from the minute he drove up to the 10th tee, on cue from a video crew that recorded every one of Abels shots. Reporters and photographers from two media outlets, including The Associated Press, were allowed to watch on the 10th and 18th holes.
 
Woods drove the cart. He handed clubs to Abel, then wiped them off with a towel and put them back in the bag. He squatted to line up putts and tended the pin. He warned how fast the greens were, then chuckled as Abel five-putted the 10th for a quadruple-bogey 8.
 
Woods gave the best local advice anyone could ever hope to get on the tough course on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When they finished, a gaggle of onlookers that gathered near the clubhouse had a collective reaction.
 
Tiger?
 
Caddie?
 
It was fun, said Woods, who once caddied for former Stanford teammate Jerry Chang. This was totally cool. Ive caddied before many times. For me to be out here and to be able to do it again, its always fun. Johns a good guy. It was a fun day for me.
 
Abel, from West Berlin, N.J., said his round went better than expected.
 
I wasnt as nervous after maybe the third or fourth hole, he said. Nerves come into it, I dont care who you are, and these greens are unbelievable. Tiger was telling me that theyre actually 3 feet slower than what they played for the Open.
 
It was just such a hoot to play with him, said Abel, who regularly shoots in the 90s. He showed me things I never even thought about. Like when he walks into a sand trap, he feels with his feet. It was just so neat. it really was.
 
Seriously, imagine handing your fairway wood to Tiger Woods after a shot.
 
Thats the funny thing, Abel said. Im just so used to taking my club and putting it in the bag, and he keeps holding his hand out. Its like, OK. You dont want to. What else can you say? You just dont think about things like that.
 
The pin on 18 was moved Monday to where it was during the final round of regulation at the U.S. Open ' front right ' when Woods rapped that 12-foot birdie putt that bumped along toward the hole and swirled into the back corner of the cup without an inch to spare.
 
After Abel finished his round, Woods gave him a final treat by dropping the ball at the spot of his Sunday putt.
 
When they asked me, do you know what youre doing? I said, No, Abel said. When I was stepping up to it, they mentioned it. They said, This is his putt.
 
Abel missed.
 
His putt probably broke another two inches more than what mine did, Woods said. Mine was more down in the valley. Slightly different putt.
 
Abel sensed that Woods enjoyed being back at Torrey Pines.
 
This might just be me watching, but he would look at certain spots and I was thinking, I wonder if thats where he hit the ball. A couple of times I was going to ask him, but then to be honest, I wasnt sure what I should ask him.
 
Abel said the one thing he took away about Woods was how much of a down-to-Earth guy he really is.
 
Abel said they talked about fatherhood, Woods knee and a couple jokes about how a couple more trophies would be nice, and how he feels he needs another green jacket. It was a little chilly and he said, Yeah, another green jacket would be nice and warm.
 
As for his caddie skills, It was all good, man, joked Woods, who enjoyed seeing Abel make a 20-foot uphill par putt on 17.
 
Abel played with a new set of Nike clubs. Woods wrote on the bib: Thank you for letting me caddie for you. Your friend, Tiger Woods.
 
Woods said his rehab is on schedule but that his return will be dictated by his doctors.
 
Im able to chip and putt now. I can start doing some more fuller rotational things toward the beginning of next year, he said. I can walk and do all this stuff. This is easy. But rotational stuff is going to be a little different.
 
Woods would love to be back at Torrey Pines in early February to defend his title at the Buick Invitational, where he has won four straight and six overall. But hes not sure if its realistic.
 
Thats the most frustrating thing for me, because I dont know, Woods said. I like having things planned out. I like understanding what I need to shoot for, but I dont know. And the surgeons dont know either, because theyve never dealt with an injury like this for a person who plays golf at an elite level. For an amateur, its no big deal, just come back nine months from now or 10 months from now. But for me, I dont know what the schedules going to be.
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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.