Turning Point at Turning Stone

By Brian HewittSeptember 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
Turning Stone Resort ChampionshipJoe Durants pride goeth before the Fall Series.
Last year at this time Durant was arguably the hottest player in golf. He finished 2006 with five straight top-10s including a victory at the FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World Resort.
If you havent won in a long time, you go from tunnel vision to spray vision, Durant said that day in Orlando after the win. Disney was his first victory since prevailing at Doral in 2001. And it spearheaded a late 2006 charge that would leave him with a career best 13th place finish on the money list.
Durant also closed last year with 17 straight rounds of par or better and Player of the Month honors for October/November.
Now Durant is looking for a little dj-vu-all-over-again. And hes hoping it will begin for him at the Turning Stone Resort Championship that begins next Thursday at Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, New York where a full field of PGA TOUR players will compete for an eye-popping $6 million purse.
Turning Stone will also mark the kickoff of the 7-event 2007 Fall Series where players will, among other things, be looking to secure their cards for 2008 and nail down a variety of berths in 2008 major championships and invitationals. For example, the top 30 players on the season-ending money list will receive invitations to next Aprils Masters.
Durant is exempt on TOUR through 2008 thanks to his Disney win. But hed dearly love to get back to Augusta. A top-10 finish at Turning Stone would be his first of the year and would provide the kind of momentum he needs to make a jump from the money list doldrums where he currently is languishing at No. 121.
I feel like I need to try and redeem this year, Durant said recently. I need a fall like I had last year. So hopefully I can start cranking things up a little bit.
Atunyote Golf Club, near Syracuse, is a 7,315-yard Tom Fazio design that got pressed into service last year when flooding forced this event to move from nearby En-Joie Golf Club. The 2006 winner was John Rollins, who stormed to victory with an 8-under closing 64.
For his part, Durant dropped out of the FedExCup race the first week of The Playoffs at The Barclays. He had finished tied for 18th at the PGA Championship and tied for 14th a week earlier at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But he realizes now it was too little too late for the FedExCup.
You need to come out of the box (this year) a little quicker, he said. I started very slowly.
Now he has seven events to make amends. They are, in order, Turning Stone, the Viking Classic, the Valero Texas Open, the Frys.com Open, the Frys Electronics Open, the Ginn sur Mer Classic at Tesoro, and a defense at Disney World in what is now called the Childrens Miracle Network Classic presented by Wal-Mart.
Durant led the TOUR in driving accuracy last year and was a respectable 93rd in driving distance. Those numbers have dropped significantly this year to sixth in driving accuracy and 126th in driving distance.
Certainly, the $1.08 million dollar first prize at Turning Stone will also serve as incentive to Durant and the rest of what shapes up to be a strong field.
The Viking Classic, which comes the week after Turning Stone, was where Durant lost in a three-hole playoff last year to first-time winner D.J. Trahan. Durant fired a sizzling 66, the low round of the final day at Annandale Golf Club to make up five shots on Trahan. But Trahans birdie on the final hole of the playoff kept Durant from being a two-time winner in 2006.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Turning Stone Resort Championship
  • Fall Series Coverage
  • Getty Images

    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

    Getty Images

    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

    Getty Images

    Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

    By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

    While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

    The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

    "I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

    Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

    According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

    "I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

    Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

    Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

    "I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

    Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

    Getty Images

    Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

    Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

    “It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

    “I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”