Of Tiger Tolkien and Sam Alexis

By Brian HewittJune 23, 2007, 4:00 pm
An explanation for the nomenclature, we are told by the Woods camp, is coming. Exactly when, will be up to Tiger and Elin, the proud parents of Sam Alexis Woods, their newborn daughter.
Until that time, everybody will have to wait and wonder at the significance of the first name, Sam, and the middle name, Alexis.
Meanwhile, strictly by coincidence we assume because there was no mention of Woods in the story, The Wall Street Journal ran a long piece in its Friday editions with the headline The Baby-Name Business.
Among other things, the WSJ reported there have been 80 baby-name books published in just the last three years. More than 100 web sites exist for the purpose of helping parents name their children.
There are even baby-name consultants who charge up to $350 for a package that can include three half-hour phone calls. In Sweden and Denmark the government reserves the right to reject baby-names officials think might subject the child to ridicule. Names turned down by Big Brother in Sweden include Veranda, Ikea and Metallica. Babynamesworld.com, according to WSJ, draws up to 600,000 visitors a day.
No way of knowing at the moment if Tiger and Elin consulted anybody outside of family and friends before settling on Sam Alexis. The only safe assumption is, if they did, they were advised not to name the baby Phil.
Who knew baby-naming was a cottage industry of such size and volume? And who, for that matter, knew people were paying such close attention to the selection of the name of the first born child of the No. 1 golfer in the world?
The following is the text from an E-mail I received from a woman named Stephanie Simmons, who claims to have an insight into why Sam and why Alexis. Part of me wants to dismiss her theory out of hand. Part of me was fascinated reading her E-mail. And part of me was convinced I had to share her message with the other loyal readers of this column. There are, after all, a large majority of readers who cant ever get enough Tiger Woods in this space.
The E-Mail from Ms. Simmons:
You are probably sick of hearing from me about now, but I wanted to share this theory on the name of Tigers baby, and I actually got the idea from Tiger himself.
On Thursdays press conference (at Oakmont), I heard Tiger say something that was oddly worded. The question involved golf and making the cut, and Tiger said something to the effect that its only golf and not the end of all things. That immediately caught my ear. No, not because Tiger was saying to the world of rabid golfers that there was something much more important than golf, but it was the expression. I was watching the conference with my mother, a retired school teacher, and my daughter, the recently graduated junior golfer. I thought to myself it was odd that he said that, and my mother commented, Tiger must be an avid reader. I said, You caught that, too?! Tiger must be a Tolkien fan.
Specifically, The Lord of the Rings. The end of all things is what Frodo says to his gardener and dear friend after the destruction of The Ring on Mount Doom, when it appears that the two will not escape the erupting volcano. Sitting on a fractured piece of rock, surrounded by creeping lava and noxious fumes, the two Hobbits discuss briefly the Shire they left behind and fought to save, and who they would have married had they survived the trek. Frodo, gasping for air, turns to his friend, Sam, and says, Im glad to be with you Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things. Its a famous line, made more famous by the recent films. Many people dont know that director Peter Jackson almost cast the role of Sam as female, rather than the male Harfoot Hobbit. When I heard him say that, I said aloud.the babys name is Sam!!! My mother immediately agreed. My daughter chimed in that it would be weird if he said that by accident or coincidence.
Now, I thought for sure that meant Baby Woods was a boy, not a girl.but here she is!!!! J. R. R. Tolkien was once asked who the greatest hero of the tales was in his opinion. He answered that there were many: Frodo, Faramir, Gandalf, Aragorn, Eowyn.but by far the most humble, noble of heart was Sam. I agree.
I am not the only person who noticed this comment. On Saturday at a concession stand, near the practice range, I overheard two men talking about it. I took my daughter over to see Tiger practicing (he was about to come out in about five minutes) and the men were there again, still talking about it. One asked aloud why he thought Tiger mentioned that line. Several people started discussing why they thought he mentioned it. The general consensus was that he was doing some introspection before the birth of his child. My daughter and I just nodded..
..Alexis is a strong, victorious name as well. If history (Alexander and Alexandria) and Tolkien literature have been the inspiration, he wouldnt be the first to name his child after a Tolkien character. Sam is a great name, boy or girl. But note, her name is not Samantha.it is Sam. Sam is the noblest of heroes. Good name.
So there you have it. Sure, its got a little Twilight Zone feel to it. But remember, Johnny Miller recently talked about a woman at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont who insisted, every day, that he was going to win the championship. He didnt know the woman and he didnt know why she had singled him out. But he did win.
So if any of this is true, Oakmont appears to be something of a spawning ground for golf mythology.
For my part, I am not ready to make the leap that the name of the Woods baby is derived from Tolkiens lore. For that matter, I dont know Tolkien from Tolstoy when it comes to literature recall.
Heres what I do know:
First, The Wall Street Journal thinks enough of baby-naming to devote enough space in its pages for a full-blown feature. And second, if it does come to pass that Tiger and Elin reveal a connection between Sam Alexis and Tolkiens writings, I will not be surprised.
Or maybe well learn they just decided they were going to name their first child after Sam Snead.

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.

Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

Getty Images

Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

Getty Images

One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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.