Welcome to the Majors

By Brian HewittMarch 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.--Quicker than you can say Dinah ... or Dogwood ... everything in golf that has our full attention at the moment is of major importance.
 
Thursday, the best women in the world will tee it up and let it fly in our sports first major of the calendar year. They call it the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the venue is the Southern California desert. Next week, the men will go after glory, and each other, at the Masters Tournament.
 
It was unusually breezy and unseasonably cool Tuesday at Mission Hills Country Club, where in two days Karrie Webb will attempt to defend, Annika Sorenstam will attempt to re-assert, and Lorena Ochoa will attempt to win her first major. The forecast for the rest of the week is gradual warming with the mercury possibly reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit by the weekend.
 
Ochoa did just about everything else last year on the LPGA. She won her first Player of the Year award. She won more money ($500,000 more than Webb, No. 2 on the money list) than anybody else in womens golf. And to cap it all off, she was named Female Athlete of the Year for 2006 by the Associated Press.
 
Sorenstam, for her part, won six times, including the U.S. Womens Open. Yet when she arrived here in Rancho Mirage she found herself answering questions about how she will feel late Sunday if Ochoa wins and she doesnt'an outcome, by the way, that will jump Ochoa past Sorenstam and into the top spot in the Rolex world rankings.
 
Of course, I look at the rankings, Sorenstam said Tuesday. But thats not something I look at when Im out there on the course.
 
And what about Ochoa narrowing the gap in the rankings? Its good for the tour; its exciting and its a positive, Sorenstam said.
 
Ochoa arrived fresh from Arizona where on Sunday she birdied four of the last five holes to win the Safeway International. Notable players missing the cut last week included Webb, Cristie Kerr, Se Ri Pak and Natalie Gulbis.
 
Last week really caught me off guard, Webb said. I got off to a poor start Thursday and just never recovered. She added that she didnt expect there would be a carryover effect into this week.
 
Anyway, the potential is here this week for a changing of the guard in womens golf. Its an especially tall order for Ochoa, who lost in a playoff to Webb in this event last year. Sorenstam, after all, has won the Kraft Nabisco three previous times and has collected 10 major championship trophies.
 
Im trying to be patient, Ochoa said.
 
The women have golfs big stage this week unlike past years when this championship competed with the PGA TOURS Players Championship AND the NCAA mens basketball tournament on the same weekend.
 
This time well have a Kraft Nabisco winner Sunday, a national hoops champion Monday night and the Masters beginning three days after that.
 
Welcome to the major leagues.
 
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.