Fallout From Annikas Departure
He also prefers to begin this special holiday edition of The Comebacker with fallout from Annika Sorenstams last (at least for the foreseeable future) LPGA event and the fact that she was drug-tested at the ADT Championship.
So, without further ado:
Bette writes: Drug testing Annika after only one month was insane. Your suggestion to wait at least four weeks is a month; I say it should be at least two months. Sure going to miss her and her classy manner.
She will be missed, I fear, even more than the LPGA realizes at the moment.
J.J. writes: If the ratings were good, we wouldnt be discussing it.
Oh yes, we would.
Brian writes: What a great send-off for one of the worlds greatest players and ambassadors of the game. Shame on the LPGA. I think it's really sad that this is what it always comes down to. Happy retirement Annika. You deserve better. LPGA needs to get a life.'
The LPGA needs to get another Annika.
Kirk writes: I have and will continue to be a fan of the LPGA. The problem is simple. The tail is wagging the dog. Blevins makes a decision and does not stand firm in her decision. Many fans agreed with her decision regarding the language issue. Someone in the minority on this subject screams political correctness and Blevins crumbles. I attended the U.S. Women's Open at Interlachen this past summer. It is unbelievable how many of the participants do not assimilate to the culture that they play in. It is obvious it is a take the money and run attitude. When traveling, I assimilate to the local culture. This is as much out of respect as necessity. What language would you expect to speak on a street in a Far East country? What language would you expect to speak in Sweden? Last point and then I will close: I was offered the opportunity to play in a pro-am at an LPGA event. I asked the name of the professional. I knew she was not fluent in the English language. What would have been the sense? I passed. Se Ri Pak is a role model for many of these players. They need to look a little deeper than the money.'
Couple of things here: First, its Bivens, not Blevins. Second, Kirk, you are being a little harsh on the Asian women. Many of them are trying very hard to improve their English. And I still dont remember anybody criticizing Argentinas Angel Cabrera for not having a firm grasp of the English language after he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007.
Peter writes: In regards to the law, everybody must submit and succumb to the rule of law regardless of who it is. Secondly, I agree with your assessment of how the ADT prize money should or shouldn't be reflected in the years standings.
The latter was a reference to the suggestion that the $1 million first prize at ADT skews the final season money list too much. Half of the million should apply to the official money list; the other half should be paid out as a bonus.
Jim writes: Jill Pilgrim integrity? How about arrogance! At what point does common sense kick in? There are numerous reasons the LPGA is never on SportsCenter. They are not on anywhere else either, except for the Golf Channel. They are a joke. Quick, name all the Majors the LPGA has had in the last 25 years. Liability if they didn't test Annika? Please! Tell the LPGA to turn out the lights on the way out. Nobody cares. Ask the sponsors, the networks, or the fans. They insulted and embarrassed the classiest representative that tour has seen since Nancy Lopez.
Wow, a lot of vitriol here. Unfortunately for the LPGA, an awful lot of the e-mails coming into The Comebacker are in at least partial agreement.
Bill writes: I thought maybe it's time for the LPGA to lengthen their courses as per the PGA. Most of the courses they play are shorter than my home course at 6,100 yards and I'm just a hacker. It hard to watch a tournament when the last few holes of a course require short irons into accessible pins which is mostly the case except for the ADT Championship.
Bill, I think you are on the money here. The ladies are hitting it farther these days just like the men. No reason why their courses cant be longer, too.
Stephen writes: I have encountered personalities such as Bivens in my life and I think the main word that jumps out at me is negative. Why is she in charge? She seems so corporate and soulless and are those the main requirements for her job? Is she qualified in any way? From an outsider looking in she seems more or less like our departing President, really arrogant and really dumb.
Cant wait for the e-mails to fly back at The Comebacker after printing this one. Remember, dont kill the messenger.
Forrest writes: With all due respect to the Annika, random drug testing is good for golf, good for America. And random means random. These athletes are playing a game, with the chance to make a lot of money playing it, and if the toughest non-golf thing they have to do is pee in a bottle, they need to get over it. Golf owes Annika a lot, but she still owes the game.
There are, Forrest reminds us here, at least two sides to every story. That doesnt mean those sides are right, just that they exist.
W.J. writes: The problem is not that Annika Sorenstam was drug-tested after her last career event, but that she was drug-tested twice in a month or less, while other players were not tested even once. This tells me that the program that is used to select who will be tested is badly flawed. If it is not fixed, it is a program that is doomed to fail before it really gets started.
What part of random do you not understand? That having been asked, players tested should be exempt from more testing for a period of time (a week, a month) so they dont have to suffer the indignity of being tested two days in a row.
Nancy writes: Your examination of the LPGA and its woes are right on target, well written and well thought out. I commend you on this and your taking the time to express concerns in a positive manner. Negativity never really helps, but how can one say positively that with Ty Votaw the LPGA seemed to be going in the right direction, but since he stepped down, things have gone south. Do you think its a gender thing? Ye gads, I hope not.
I think Ty Votaw was a very good commissioner.
Vicki writes: Thank you for writing a thoughtful and non-sexist article about the LPGA's difficulties. The attitude of LPGA's leaders seems to be overly regulatory, not collaborative and defensive about their
decisions. I think they have a leadership model that doesn't serve the LPGA well in what should be a growth period for women (and minorities) in golf. Good grief. Why didn't an LPGA official reach out to Annika right away to explain and apologize for the inconvenience and do their best to make the testing procedure less of an issue? Either the current leadership is unaware of the mistakes or oblivious to the issues that now make the LPGA seem irrelevant and an impediment to progress. How sad.
Lots of women weighing in on these issues. The Comebacker feels thats a good thing.
Penrod writes: I look at the problems of the LPGA through the eyes of a septuagenarian. It seems, to me, that the 'powers that be' are more interested in showing their power than trying to get more interest in the game. They had a chance to get one of the more talented players in their fold but instead DQ'd her for not signing her card. Even though she was within 'spitten distance' from the tent and went back to sign the card. These nit-picking rules certainly do not increase the pleasure of watching a very talented group play a great game. While I can see the necessity for rules, please have a valid point to them. BTW, I doff my cap to the University of Arizona players who have represented their alma mater well. I do hope Annika changes her mind about retiring.
Septuagenarians are people in their 70s. People in their 70s have been around long enough to know that these things go in cycles.
Charley writes: They need to play better. They ought to be thankful for whatever they make. Too many missed short putts and limited up and down skills. No power game; very little ability to come from behind. Courses are too short. I've played Bulle Rock and from the regular men's tees the water on 18 is in play from the tee and the second shot plays long so the water is again in play for a mild hook. For them, in a major championship, the water is never in play. Something's wrong and it's no wonder they have attendance problems.
Another vote for longer courses for the women.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener
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.
Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder
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.
Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone
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.
The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't
The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.
All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.
By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.
Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.
As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:
This is unreal,hiding in kitchen beachside missile attack from North Korea. Alarm went out all over Hawaii, and it’s no test...— Jesper Parnevik (@JesperParnevik) January 13, 2018
In a basement under hotel. Barely any service. Can you send confirmed message over radio or tv https://t.co/qHLeQSecnd— JJ Spaun (@JJSpaun) January 13, 2018
Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in laws. Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 13, 2018
While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:
Yeah, you heard that right.
“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”
Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.
Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.
Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.
As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.
Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.
Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.
With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.
First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.
“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”
Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.
We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.
These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.
Here's two more just for good measure.
Focus on a different face every time and this 15 second clip turns into 10 minutes of pure entertainment pic.twitter.com/JJeVV5eaVh— Laces Out (@LacesOutShow) January 15, 2018
Farts ... will they ever not be funny?
Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.
Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.
Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"
Yeah Tommy, we all got that.
Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.
But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.
We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.
Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.
PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.
Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.