Controversy, tumult top golf world in 2013

By Doug FergusonMay 29, 2013, 2:26 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Ernie Els flashed that easy smile when he saw a reporter walking toward the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass earlier this month.

''This must be great for you guys,'' he said through his laughter. ''Come out to the PGA Tour and every week they hand you another story.''

And he wasn't talking about Adam Scott winning the Masters.

The debate over anchored strokes and long putters. Deer-antler spray. Rule 33-7. A player cleared of an anti-doping violation on a technicality, and then suing his own tour. Players hiring an attorney over a new rule related to the long putter.

And this was before the public spat between Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods took an ugly turn that brought overtures of racism back into golf.

''It's been quite a controversial year for golf,'' Lee Westwood said.

Woods has won four times on the PGA Tour going into the Memorial, a tournament he has won five times in his career. So when someone asked Westwood on Tuesday if there was a sense that the No. 1 player was on the verge of going on a big run, Westwood looked mildly perplexed.

''I think he's on one, isn't he?'' Westwood said. ''How many tournaments has he played this year? He's won more than 50 percent.''

But any talk of Woods is sure to include the illegal drop he took at the Masters, the two-shot penalty he received the next day, the incorrect scorecard with his signature on it and Augusta National invoking Rule 33-7, which gave it discretion to disregard the penalty of disqualification for the incorrect scorecard.

That debate lost steam when Vijay Singh sued the Tour the day before The Players Championship began at TPC Sawgrass, where the Fijian spent years honing a game that brought him nearly $70 million in earnings and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Lawsuits against the Tour are rare, but the details of this one were bizarre.

''Nobody has ever sued the Tour for being cleared of getting a drug violation,'' Padraig Harrington said.

WADA warned against deer-antler spray. Vijay Singh used deer-antler spray. The Tour proposed a six-month suspension. Singh appealed. WADA said deer-antler spray was no longer the same concern. Singh was off the hook. And then Singh sued the Tour.

The good news for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was the lawsuit was largely forgotten three days later. The bad news for the Tour was why it was forgotten.

Singh vs. PGA Tour felt like an undercard compared with Garcia vs. Woods.

The Spaniard threw a sucker punch during a rain delay by suggesting Woods was the cause of a commotion in their final group of the third round. Woods fired back by calling out Garcia for his constant complaining, which led Garcia to say Woods wasn't the nicest guy on tour. And with no interest by either side in a truce, Garcia tried to make a joke about having Woods over for fried chicken, and he wound up with egg on his face.

Garcia threw out the racial stereotype the same day that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association introduced Rule 14-1b, effective in 2016, that would ban the anchored stroke used for long putters - like the one Scott used when he won the Masters, or the one Els used at the British Open, and Webb Simpson in the U.S. Open, and the ones used by Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson their entire pro careers.

Players, including Scott, have retained a lawyer as they wait to see whether the PGA Tour goes along with the new rule. The Tour met with its Player Advisory Council on Tuesday at Muirfield Village, the first step toward figuring out which direction it will go.

According to one PAC member at the meeting, there was passion on both sides of the debate, which was not surprising. And there was no consensus, also not surprising. This was only a conversation, and from all indications, no one called anyone names.

So much for golf's reputation as a genteel sport.

''Is it bad for golf?'' Nick Watney said Tuesday afternoon. ''It depends on your theory of publicity. If you had the Kardashian feeling that any publicity is good publicity, then it's good. If you're a purist in terms of golf, then it's bad. The lawsuits, the rule change, the little feud going on. My view is that it's bad. This is supposed to be a gentleman's game. We're different from a lot of other pro sports.''

This isn't the first time golf has gone way beyond birdies and bogeys.

There was the lawsuit involving Ping and the square grooves in the 1980s. There was Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, leading the breakaway from the PGA of America to start what is now the PGA Tour at the end of the 1960s. Imagine if Woods and Phil Mickelson did something like that today.

''It's not a perfect game,'' Curtis Strange said. ''Some people believe there's no such thing as bad press, but it seems like we're still having growing issues. We're learning how to handle doping issues, although nobody has learned to do that yet. I'm been reading about Lance Armstrong all day.''

It always seemed like some other sport's problems, and now some of those problems belong to golf.

''It's been great on the golf course – fantastic, really,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ''Tiger has won four times. The Masters was amazing again. Any time golf is in the newspaper, it's a good thing for us. Obviously, the Sergio-Tiger thing wasn't good. But it has been a tumultuous year.''

And it's not anything Finchem can make go away with a wave of his hand. Considering that golf is a niche sport, maybe that's not the worst thing.

''Outside the ropes, golf is probably more interesting than it ever has been,'' Robert Garrigus said. ''I don't think it's all that bad if it makes our sport more interesting. There might be a few more people come out to the U.S. Open.''

That would be good for golf. Maybe not so much for Garcia.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.