When a Miss Becomes a Choke
There's no telling how long the word 'choke' has been part of the golf vernacular, or when it first came into vogue. Perhaps the most famous use came at the 1989 Masters, and then only because Scott Hoch's last name rhymes with 'spoke,' or something like that.
A year later, Johnny Miller was in the broadcast tower for NBC Sports, watching Peter Jacobsen stand over a 225-yard approach from a downhill lie over water to the 18th green at the Bob Hope Classic.
'This is absolutely the easiest shot to choke I've ever seen in my life,' Miller said that day.
Jacobsen pulled off the shot and won the tournament, and Miller was vilified for daring to mention what everyone thinks.
'You'd think I'd exposed warts on Miss America,' he wrote in his book.
And maybe Miller himself has become sensitive about the 'C' word, because he didn't utter it Sunday at the Honda Classic when Weekley three-putted from 30 feet on the 18th hole, missing a 3-footer that would have brought him his first PGA TOUR title.
Nor did he use it a week earlier at the Accenture Match Play Championship when Woods missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole that would have won his third-round match against Nick O'Hern.
And that leads to a question that is hard to answer.
When does a miss become a choke?
Paul Goydos was asked Tuesday to define 'choke' and his response showed how touchy this subject is around golfers.
'Food lodged in the throat,' he said.
Miller defines it as stress manifesting itself mentally and physically. If that's the case, it happens every week.
'If you're out there and you don't feel pressure, you're not into what you're doing,' Curtis Strange said.
The two-time U.S. Open champion has felt both sides of emotion. He saved par from a bunker on the final hole of the 1988 U.S. Open to force a playoff with Nick Faldo, beating him the next day. Seven years later, Strange missed a 6-foot par putt on the last hole to lose a crucial match to Faldo in the Ryder Cup.
'Anybody who has played this game has done both,' Strange said. 'It can beat you up if you let it.'
Scroll down a list of tournaments on the PGA TOUR and it's not hard to find example of blown opportunities.
Greg Owen had a 3 1/2 -foot par putt on the 17th hole at Bay Hill last year that would have given him a two-shot lead with one hole to play. He three-putted for double bogey and lost the tournament with a bogey on the 18th.
Mike Weir had a chance to become the first Canadian in 50 years to win his national open, on the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Open. He had a 5-foot par putt to win on the second playoff hole against Vijay Singh in 2004 and missed it, then lost on the next hole.
Charles Howell III hit a superb bunker shot on the 10th at Riviera in a 2003 playoff, only to miss the 6-foot putt.
Was that a miss or a choke?
And is that any different from Bernhard Langer? He faced a 6-footer on the final hole at Kiawah Island with no less than the Ryder Cup hanging in the balance. The anguish on his face when he missed remains one of the most indelible images of the Ryder Cup.
Langer is remembered more for his two Masters titles than a missed putt at the Ryder Cup. And it would be difficult to say Weir choked because of the 6-foot pars he made on the 17th and 18th holes in winning the 2003 Masters in a playoff.
'Circumstances are what define whether it's perceived if you choked or not,' Paul Azinger said. 'What is choking, anyway? Is it the hands shaking? Is it your thought process?'
Weekley needed only two putts from 30 feet for his first PGA TOUR title. The birdie putt stopped 3 feet short of the hole. He studied the par putt from both sides, then saw the ball run by the cup on the left.
'I was shaking. I ain't gonna lie about it,' Weekley said. 'I was just focusing on getting that ball in the hole and turning around and waving to everybody. I made a good stroke. I just hammered it.'
Woods had to rap in only a 4-footer for birdie to beat O'Hern, advance to the quarterfinals and stay on track for his eighth consecutive PGA TOUR victory. He blamed the miss on a ball mark he neglected to repair.
Whether he pushed the putt with a quick stroke or the ball was knocked off line by a slight indentation on the green has been a popular subject the last few weeks. But one fact is undeniable -- he missed. And if he didn't notice the ball mark, then that would have to be classified as a breakdown in the thought process.
'It's my fault for not paying attention to detail,' Woods said.
Woods gets a pass because he has faced a dozen or so other crucial shots and made most of them, whether it was that 6-footer for birdie at Valhalla to force a playoff with Bob May at the 2000 PGA Championship or that 15-foot par putt that kept the Americans from losing in the 2003 Presidents Cup.
'Tiger has proven over and over again that there's not a lot of choke in him,' Azinger said. 'Until Boo Weekley makes a putt like that, people are going to speculate whether he choked.'
Ditto for Camilo Villegas. He hit a terrific flop shot to 3 feet and missed by a mile to fall out of the playoff.
'Every other sport, with the exception of bowling, you're pretty much reacting,' former PGA champion Rich Beem said. 'Here, you're making the ball react. You have a lot of time to think.'
'And hopefully,' he added, 'you don't think too much.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.
A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.
In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.
“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”
Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.
“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.
Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.
“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”
How does she feel?
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”
Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.
New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title
NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.
Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.
She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.
“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”
Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.
Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.
Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.
Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.
“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.
Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.
“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”
You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios
NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.
Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:
Race to the CME Globe
Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.
Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.
The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.
Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.
Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.
So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.
Rolex Player of the Year
The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.
Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.
Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.
Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.
It’s simple math.
The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.
1st - 30 points
2nd – 12 points
3rd – 9 points
4th – 7 points
5th – 6 points
6th – 5 points
7rd – 4 points
8th – 3 points
9th – 2 points
10th – 1 point
Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.
Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.
Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.
At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.
Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.
Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''
Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.
''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''
Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.
''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''
J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.
''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.
''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''
He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.
''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''
Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.
''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''