Green Jacket Required

By Brian HewittFebruary 6, 2008, 5:00 pm
Charles Howell, who will attempt to defend his title at the Northern Trust Open next week, was asked this week why Riviera doesnt seem to fit the eye of Tiger Woods, his frequent practice partner.
 
Truthfully, Howell said, I have no idea.
 
But Howell admitted, Its the only thing I have on Tiger and I remind him of it quite often.
 
Asked how Woods responds to the LA needling, Howell said, He mentions all of his green jackets quite quickly ... and that has a very quieting effect on me.
 
(If youre counting, thats Woods four green jackets, Howell zero.)
 
MEET THE FOCKLERS:
Yes, they made it to the game on time.
 
Actually, 11-year-old Drew Fockler and his father, John, were in their seats at Super Bowl XLII 40 minutes ahead of kickoff during a whirlwind day that started at the FBR Open with the pair in search of a Phil Mickelson autograph.
 
Their original efforts were rebuffed at the putting green before the start of the final round. But Mickelson and his caddie, Bones Mackay, stopped the pair after Phil had completed the third hole. Thats when they presented the Focklers with two tickets to the game that was 30 miles away in Glendale.
 
Drew Fockler is an 11-year-old junior golfer from Flagstaff, Ariz., who aspires to play high school, college and professional golf one day. He plays a junior tour near his home. His mother, Rebecca, says his handicap is 13.
 
The end zone tickets had a face value of $700 apiece. The Giants winning fourth quarter touchdown took place right in front of the Focklers seats. Rebecca Fockler was keeping her husband and son apprised of Mickelson progress via text messaging.
 
Once inside the stadium they were able to see the playoff, in which J.B. Holmes defeated Mickelson on the first extra hole, on a stadium television monitor near their seats.
 
Drew Fockler hung around Phoenix for part of the day Monday to do a local television interview. But he didnt miss any school because Monday was a school snow day in Flagstaff, located in northern Arizona.
 
Rebecca Fockler said all the members of her family are avid GOLF CHANNEL watchers including Drews younger sister, Alyssa. Alyssa is 20 months old and, according to Rebecca, was so happy with the plastic golf clubs she received for Christmas that she didnt want to open the rest of her presents.
 
I think, Rebecca Fockler said. Drews taking it all in stride. But hes at an age where this is a lifetime deal.
 
The Super Bowl tickets, if youre curious, included a valet parking pass.
 
DESIGNING MEN:
The golf course design tandem of Bill Coore and former Masters champion Ben Crenshaw has completed their first work in Florida. Sugarloaf Mountain, near Orlando, is situated in the rolling hills above Lake Apopka and its another home run for Crenshaw and Coore who have been in high demand ever since conceiving and building Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska.
 
Sugarloaf Mountain, which officially opens for play Friday, is a classic design that plays 7,057 yards from the tips. It is owned by Hampton Golf, whose president is former PGA of America president M.G. Orender.
 
Adjoining residential real estate is planned for the future at Sugarloaf Mountain which will eventually go private. Not a bad hole out there, said two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, who recently set the course record of 70 at Sugarloaf Mountain. That mark lasted until Tour pro Garrett Willis carded a 68 just minutes later.
 
MORE DESIGN NEWS:
The Toronto Globe and Mail is reporting that Johnny Miller and Stephen Ames, who has adopted Canada as his home country, are collaborating on a golf course in Calgary that could one day host the Canadian Open.
 
The name of the course will be The Legacy at Harmony and is scheduled for completion in 2012. Reports say the course could be stretched to 8,100 yards. No Calgary golf course has previously hosted a Canadian Open.
 
Meanwhile, Tom Doak, who designed Pacific Dunes in Oregon, was in Bandon last month for four days on a site visit for Old Macdonald.
 
Old Macdonald is an 18-hole homage to Charles Blair Macdonald, the seminal early-American golf course designer. Old Macdonald is located 400 acres north and east of Pacific Dunes. Its scheduled to open in July of 2010.
 
Macdonalds most famous design is the National Golf Links in Southampton, N.Y.
 
NORTHERN EXPOSURE:
Among the perks provided at Riviera next week by first-time title sponsor Northern Trust, will be courtesy cars for all players (only half the field got courtesy cars last year); three ams (down from four) per group in the Pro-Am; and an exclusive brunch for companions and spouses with celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis.
 
The Northern Trust is a multibank holding company based in Chicago. But when in L.A. ... Hence the chef. And, yes, culinarians, thats the same Giada De Laurentiis who has dueled Rachel Ray on Iron Chef.
 
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Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.