Withdrawal Pains

By Brian HewittJune 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
In a week where the winners in professional golf drew less attention than the players who couldnt make it to the house, K. J. Chois hard-charging victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Morgan Stanley, was memorable for several reasons.
 
For starters, Choi fired a closing 65 to defeat equally hard-charging Ryan Moore by a shot. It was Chois fifth win on the PGA TOUR. And it stamped him as another player you cant ignore in the first round of your U.S. Open fantasy drafts.
 
Meanwhile, a lot of people are scratching their heads and trying to figure out how a quartet of players who began the final round in better position all wilted in one way or another. Their names: Rod Pampling, who held a three shot lead after 54 holes; Adam Scott, who bogeyed the 71st and 72nd hole; Sean OHair, who didnt birdie either of the par-5s on the back nine; and Stewart Cink, who made no birdies at all on the inward half.
 
And while were at it, what was up with all the withdrawals last week in mens and womens golf? It was a veritable epidemic, starting Thursday at the Memorial when Phil Mickelson tweaked his left wrist and withdrew after 11 holes.
 
I couldnt grab the club and I couldnt swing, Mickelson said about a condition that left him no alternative but to stop playing.
 
This was Mickelsons first event since winning THE PLAYERS last month. And it took a little of the air out of the balloon that was to be his showdown with Woods in two weeks in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
 
Mickelson jetted home to California to meet with specialists. And his status for this weeks Stanford St. Jude Championship was uncertain. Before he left Ohio he sounded like a man who wasnt concerned about being ready for Oakmont. But the long roughs for which U.S. Opens are notorious are no place to be trying to win a major championship with a tender wrist.
 
Woods, for his part, was able to fight through an early week throat infection. By the end of the Memorial, especially Sunday when he eagled seven and birdied eight and nine and carded a tidy 67, he looked very much like a player peaking at the right time. He finished tied for 15th, eight shots behind Choi.
 
Masters champion Zach Johnson wasnt so lucky. A strep throat forced him to withdraw after 15 holes Thursday at the Memorial. Sorry guys, the normally-accommodating Johnson told reporters after he pulled out. I cant talk.
 
After 36 holes of Nicklaus event, Jason Bohn (pronounced bone) withdrew with a rib injury. Last I checked a rib IS a bone. If Woody Allen were a golf writer, you can be sure hed come up with a suitable one-liner here. Also, Charles Howell III withdrew because of illness after the third round.
 
Then there was all the attention that surrounded Michelle Wies withdrawal at the Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika in South Carolina.
 
Wie hadnt played tournament golf in four months because of injuries to both wrists and she got off to a dreadful start Thursday. After 16 holes she was 14 over par. Two more bogeys would have produced an 88 and, because of a little-known LPGA rule that bans any non-member shooting 88 or worse for the rest of the calendar year, she was on very thin ice.
 
She withdrew.
 
The critics cried foul, saying Wie stopped playing to avoid an 88 or worse. Wies camp staunchly defended the decision, citing a recurrence of wrist pain. The second major championship on the womens side is next week in Maryland at the McDonalds LPGA. As of Sunday, there had been no announcement from Wies people on whether she will be able to play.
 
Natalie Gulbis drew less attention in South Carolina after withdrawing following an opening 80. Gulbis, too, cited injury. Still looking for her first LPGA victory, the 24-year-old Gulbis has just one top-10 and three missed cuts in 10 2007 starts. The problem is her back and it may cause her to miss the McDonalds LPGA.
 
Finally, there was the warm story of 15-year-old amateur MacKinzie Kline. Born with just one ventricle in her heart, Kline underwent two open heart surgeries before her second birthday. She has survived and can play in tournaments with the help of a respirator and permission to ride a cart. Sorenstam, the tournaments host, extended an exemption to Kline, who shot 86-89 but said she learned a lot.
 
Kline would not have made the 36-hole cut at the Ginn Tribute. But LPGA policy stipulates that any non-member on the wrong side of the 88 rule is officially deemed to have withdrawn. Nevertheless, it was a feel good story just to watch the wide-eyed Kline play the game. She may have less heart, anatomically, than anybody else in golf. But she has more heart, spiritually, than just about everybody in the game.
 
All in all, there has never been a week in golf with more withdrawal pains for so many well-known players.
 
Choi, who stormed into contention early Sunday with a sizzling front-nine 30 and retained his position with a clutch par-saving putt on 17, should not be lost in the shuffle. Nor should we ignore the quiet emergence of Nicole Castrale, who defeated Lorena Ochoa in a one-hole playoff in South Carolina.
 
A quick word on the charming and talented Ochoa: She is clearly the best player in the world at the moment. But she did bogey two of her last three holes Sunday. Until she learns to close more consistently, and until she starts winning majors in bunches, she wont soon make any forget Sorenstams brilliance over the last decade.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry