Bradley vs. Jimenez recalls other course encounters

By Brandel ChambleeMay 2, 2015, 12:43 am

Watching Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez nearly come to blows in their WGC-Cadillac Match Play match on Friday stirred some memories in me.

I once saw two of the most otherwise well-behaved touring professionals stand toe to toe in the middle of what was then the Quad Cities Classic’s 18th fairway and have a staredown, fists at the ready, each waiting for the other man to blink or throw a punch.

In question was a ball plugged in the fairway (a blind fairway from the tee) and whether the ball flew there, which would have entitled the player to a free drop, or rolled there, entitling him to no such thing. I can’t remember the resolution, but if I hadn’t seen two of the nicest guys on Tour almost tussle, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Golf has a short list of pugilistic moments but a few more come to mind, and in full disclosure I have to admit I very nearly was involved in one of them. 

Bradley, Jimenez in heated confrontation

I once played with a pro who had a bit of a reputation as a brawler, was rumored to be a black belt in karate and to have killed a man in a bar fight. Word was, he was as crazy as a peach-orchard boar. He and I were in a twosome, and he was on his way to an 80-plus performance. Our sole gallery member was his girlfriend, who seemed sympathetic to his bad golf, at least until his wife showed up and then her disposition seemed, well … less sympathetic.

On hole after hole I had to wait for him to walk and search for a safe spot to stand, presumably out of range of hurled objects (the girlfriend did indeed look athletic). He was doing his best to make himself a moving target, and I was doing my best to play undisturbed, or at least to give that appearance, figuring a protest by me would act like a blowtorch to kindling. I was right. 

As I was preparing to chip on one hole he walked right up to the flagstick and stood. I backed away and looking at him I said, “Just let me play.” OK, I may have added an expletive … anyway no sooner had the words left my mouth than rage filled his eyes. He said, “What did you say? I’ll tear your head off!” He definitely added an expletive between the words “your” and “head” and he started walking toward me.

I had about a second to sum up his intentions and to consider my options while hoping the rage in his eyes would be replaced by the rationalization that neither of the witnesses to my murder was likely to be malleable to his reconstruction of the crime scene. But he kept coming. I was going to run, but then I remembered I was armed, albeit with a sand wedge, and the next thing you know I raised the wedge and looked at him a few feet away and dared him to take another step. I said, “Go on, take one more step. Take one more and you will lose your kneecaps.” He stopped and after a second or so, he smiled like he just discovered the wheel, and said, “Little man with fire - I like that” and he turned around and gave me room to chip.

From then on every time I saw him, he addressed me as “little man with fire” and smiled.

Another little man with fire, so to speak, was Dave Hill, who in spite of winning 13 times on Tour was better known for his irascible nature. During a Champions Tour event in the early ’90s J.C. Snead, nephew of Sam Snead, was hitting range balls that were coming to rest far too close to Dave. Dave let loose with a few verbal volleys, ordering J.C. to stop. When he didn’t, Dave took off for the much larger J.C. and the two came to blows, wrestling each other to the ground before other players were able to separate them. The disparity in size between the two men and the tougher era from which they both came has given this confrontation a comical charm in the retelling.

Years ago back in the late ’60s there was a Tour player with questionable connections who was said to be, when he wasn't playing golf, a strong-arm who collected on unpaid debts. Tall and menacing, he looked exactly how you would expect someone to look whose main vocation involved conflict. He had a reputation for playing by any rules he saw fit, and for two very good reasons, he was rarely challenged. First, he wasn't good enough to contend or even be relevant. Second, there was one incident that scared the hell out of everyone.

It is said that up in Boston one year a rules official got wind of a violation he committed and met him in the locker room and took him to task, whereupon the rules official was stuffed in locker and told not to come out until he had permission.

Closest thing we get to a good ol’ fashioned fight these days is when grievances are meted out in the media, social or otherwise, like Phil Mickelson’s passive-aggressive takedown of Tom Watson that led to the Ryder Cup task force, only needs a “d” at the end of “force” to be accurately named, if you ask me, but otherwise it is indeed a gentlemen’s game we all play.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

Getty Images

Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

Getty Images

CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)