Musings from My Mind
The Importance of Being Ernest
I guess we could say Ernie Els was ahead of his time; a pioneer in what has become a recent popular trend in making bold statements regarding Tiger Woods (see: Rory Sabatini, Jason Day, Ian Poulter), when at the end of 2006 the South African declared he had a three-year plan to overtake Tiger as World No. 1. Of course, we know he hasnt even come close to that goal, nor will he, even with his victory at The Honda. To be fair, Im in the second year of MY three-year plan to own (and rule with an iron-fist!) the GOLF CHANNEL and look where I am still getting coffee for Kraig Kann when he gives me the signal ' one sugar, no cream; yes, sir. So, I really have no room to criticize. Even with his rise to No. 3 in the world, Ernest simply needs to re-adjust his goals. In summary kids: stay earnest and have aspirations (just not unattainable ones).
Its all fun and games in Harding Park paradise until Robin Williams publicist denies you any remote possibility that his client will be available for your amusement. Turns out, Fred Couples thoughts of Williams entertaining the golf troops at the Presidents Cup in 09 -- a whole 19 months out (who plans comedy that far ahead?) -- were ix-nayed the same day Freddie joked about it at his captain's press conference. And thankfully so! Of all the possible comedians, Boom-Boom, your go-to was Patch Adams? Has Williams even been funny since Good Morning, Vietnam? And moreover, how alien is he going to be for young guns on the team like DJ Trahan, who hadn't even been born when Mork and Mindy hit the airwaves.
Who does 47-year-old Mark Calcavecchia think he is?... Julio Franco? His Italian surname translates to old crowd, but this guy has been playing like hes a spry spring chicken since, well, last spring when he captured his first PGA TOUR win in two years. With three top-20 finishes in 08 and 11 top-25 finishes in 07, including the event where hes defending this week, the PODS, Calc is STILL GETTING IT DONE! And as Vince Cellini pointed out in our production meeting on Monday, Marks not the only Methuselah on the PGA TOUR whos recently breathed a second (and/or third) life into his respective career. Fred Funk, Woody Austin, and Steve Stricker have all put together impressive resurgences, inspiring all nilla-wafer-eating, Matlock-watching codgers in hearing-aid-assisted distance.
Ah, but back to baseball (and lets be honest, it really should always come back to our nations past-time). Incidentally, Calc turned professional in 1982 '- the same year that 49-year-old Julio Franco -- now with his ninth major league team; YOUR Atlanta Braves!-- also made his debut in the big leagues. Hmm. Franco had his most productive streak of seasons when he hit over .300 in every season from 1986 to 1989. Guess when Calc put together his most dominant consecutive years? Oh, in that same span: 1986 to 1989! (cue the Twilight zone music). Calc won at least one PGA TOUR event in each of those years, including his sole major victory in 89 at the British Open. What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. Except that age is just a silly number and Brett Favre really is a pansy if hes quitting professional sports at the age of 38.
March to Augusta
Its almost Madness time, which means Gus Johnson is back in our lives. Eeeek! I cant think of anything more exciting in the world of sports broadcasting right now than his return to the national limelight. (unless you were to pit Digger Phelps against Lou Holtz in a televised pep talk duel-to-the-death? Why do we have to endure those, ESPN? ) Yeah, no singular voice rings in those ides of March and the NCAA hoops fever with more passion ' or with more authority! (sorry, Raftery) than the frenetic, hysterical screams of one Gus Johnson. Sadly, however, we only get a shot clock-like ephemeral time with this man of extraordinary vocal dexterity, as CBS utilizes him for only a few rounds of The Dance. But thats where golf should come in and take the lead. Golf needs Gus in the broadcast booth immediately. Set him up on the 18th -- simply on Sundays, if you like, but particularly in your Tiger-less tourneys, and let the mans voice-box explode. Guaranteed ratings-spike! Imagine Gus at Augusta in April! Suddenly, Nantzs Welcome Friends, seems lame and antiquated. Too outlandish a notion, you say? Hey, its not like Im suggesting something as ludicrous as a network hiring Bob Knight to provide tactful, tasteful broadcast-able commentary and analysis on college basketball every night.
The Tiger Woods' Effect
No, not THAT effect! Id like to know what has happened to all those poor souls who have been bonked, bruised, and banged-up by the sheer brute might of El Tigre over the years? While watching the WGC-Accenture Match Play a few weeks ago, I watched a marshal get drilled by an errant Woods drive on 13, and pondered out loud the amount of people Tiger has inadvertently injured over the years. Where are they? And how did that singular (and seemingly minor) event affect their life, if at all? At the Gallery of Dove Mountain that day, all the marshal received was a bloody gaping head-wound, a used Nike golf glove, and a worthless (not really! just kidding!) handshake from Tiger Woods. So where are these people? Did any of them sustain any lasting side-effects? Do they have battle scars about which they brag about to friends and family? And good heavens, how many times do they tell that dang story? [If youve taken a Woods Nike ball to the noggin, or just have a meaningful Tiger encounter you want to share, email me.]
And finally, onto the programming notes for the week ....
Inside the Ropes: Swingin and Rasslin
Our endearing British reporter Tom Abbott ambled into my office late afternoon Monday with hands wringing and a face full of worry. The poor chap was practically stricken with panic. And as it turns out, his anxiety was not completely unwarranted. You see, the bloke from Surrey, England had just received his newest journalistic assignment: play 18 holes with the WWEs Big Show: a 7-foot 2-inch (um, 470 lb.) wrestler whose signature move is, from what I understand, aChoke Slam. Now, I'm not terribly familiar with wrestling, but I can venture a solid guess as to what that procedure might entail. And one doesn't have to utilize the imagination too much, to further envision what could happen to our spindly, sprite Tom Abbott if he were to inadvertently provoke the Big Show (also known as 'The Giant') to anger -- or elicit even mild levels of annoyance. His finishing maneuver is called the 'Final Cut', after all. Oh, poor Tom. (Once the feature is shot -- and provided Mr. Abbott actually survives the ordeal -- it will air at the end of March on Golf Central. Stay tuned...)
DJs Rhythm Has Inspirational Beat
For a guy who was practically sentenced to a wheelchair due to his cerebral palsy, DJ Gregory walks with quite a determined stride. I caught a glimpse of him at Riviera a few weeks ago as I was scurrying about the course for an interview. You see, hes somewhat a celebrity now -- which is the way it should be.
DJ has no abductor muscles in his legs and has to lock his knees every step, creating a unique rhythm as he walks. But as hard as it is on his body, youd never know from his smiling face. Hes living every golfers dream this year: attending all 37 tournaments on the FedExCup schedule on the PGA TOUR. So far, hes walked 195 miles, that's 691 holes. And a total of 13,293 miles traveled. What started out as a dream has evolved into something so much more profound and far-reaching. Our Rich Lerner spent some time with D.J. recently and found out more about this courageous young man in our Golf Central spotlight this Saturday and Sunday. We hope you catch D.J.!
Email your thoughts to Dena Davis
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x