Almost Too Close to Call

By Brian HewittJanuary 7, 2008, 5:00 pm
Its primary season in American politics. Barack trounced Hillary in Iowa last week. And Huckabee thumped Mitt on the Republican side. Our next President? Your guess is as good as mine.
 
Now for some early returns from the 2008 PGA TOUR season, one week old after the pulsating Sunday conclusion of the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii:
 
  • Daniel Chopra, the press guides say, is fluent in three languages'English, Swedish and Hindi. For 72 holes last week he was also fluent in Hawaiian Bermuda, making more long putts than anybody else in the field on the famously illegible greens of Kapaluas Plantation Course. Steve Stricker arrived on Maui as the reigning two-time Comeback Player of the Year, a bit of a left-handed compliment and an award virtually impossible to capture three straight years. Chopra will be coming back to this event next year because he beat Stricker on the fourth hole of a sudden death playoff. The victory also gets Chopra an invitation to his first Masters and into the discussion for the European Ryder Cup team. Stricker will have to win elsewhere in 08 to get his 2009 ticket punched for Kapalua.
     
  • Those pictures from Maui (particularly if you are fortunate enough to have access to HD television) look soooo good in January (particularly if you live, or have lived, in the Northeast, Midwest or anywhere else in the States where there is snow on the ground or rain in the air).
     
  • Its unfair to call Boo Weekly dumb. But its not unfair to say he was dumb when he forget to take those two bullets out of his carry-on bag before he got to airport security.
     
  • More and more traditionalists'Nick Faldo is the latest'are weighing in with criticism of the Stack and Tilt golf swing. And to be sure, the returns wont be in until five or 10 years from now when the predicted back injuries are supposed to surface. But the fact of the matter is before Mike Weir started working with Stack and Tilt proprietors Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, a terrific career was beginning to stall. Now Weir, who beat Woods in a Presidents Cup singles match and won in Arizona late last year, is in full flight again. Yes, Weir failed to close the deal Sunday at Kapalua after holding the 54-hole lead. But he arrived admittedly underpracticed and playing three rounds as well as he did was an indicator of good things to come. This time around, two bogeys on the first four holes Sunday undid him at Kapalua and led to a solo fourth.
     
  • When you start thinking about all the names Paul Azinger will have to choose from with his four captains selections for the American Ryder Cup team later this year (add Jonathan Byrd and Brandt Snedeker to a crowded list that already includes Hunter Mahan, who fired a 9-under 64 Sunday) you almost wonder whether 'Zinger might end up wishing he had only two selections. Choosing four could turn out to be tougher than selecting two and there is massive potential for the second-guessers to have a field day. But, you know what? Azinger can handle the heat.
     
  • Rory Sabbatini ducks out of the last round of Tigers Target World Challenge in December. His handlers cite shin splints. Then Sabbatini shows up in Hawaii training and practicing several weeks before the Mercedes. Then the normally loquacious Sabbatini dummies up for the week with reporters. Then he goes out and finishes an indifferent 17th in a 31-player field. What will Rory do next?.
     
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    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: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


    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.) 

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    Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.