Golf in the news for the wrong reasons

By Doug FergusonFebruary 3, 2010, 8:00 am

This is not the kind of publicity the PGA Tour had in mind.

Golf’s two best players are linked by accusations of cheating – one because he has a wife, the other because he has a wedge.

Oh, for happier times.

It was only four months ago when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson posed on the 18th green at the Tour Championship in Atlanta with commissioner Tim Finchem, both holding a trophy, smiles filling the frame. Woods had won the FedEx Cup for the second time, while Mickelson’s victory seemed to signal a renewed rivalry between the game’s brightest stars.

These days, handshakes have been replaced by hand-wringing.

The biggest blow remains the absence of Woods, missing since his middle-of-the-night car accident Nov. 27 that fueled sordid tales of extramarital affairs. Even though it has been nearly two months since he announced his indefinite break, the laughs kept coming when a San Diego strip club flew a banner over Torrey Pines that read, “We miss you too, Tiger.”

One day later, the news shifted to a banner quote in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Scott McCarron is not the only player upset about a 20-year-old legal loophole that allows players to use Ping Eye2 wedges with grooves that no longer conform to the rules. He’s just the only player to use the word “cheating.”

“It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play,” McCarron told the newspaper.

Mickelson is happy to be a lightning rod on this topic because he doesn’t like the U.S. Golf Association’s new rule on grooves and is miffed that Finchem never takes his ideas seriously. This is a chance to make both of them squirm. In the meantime, he would have expected, even welcomed, healthy debate with his peers on the Ping wedges.

But cheating?

That’s hitting below his white belt.

It’s like the ferry scene in the movie “Jaws,” when Mayor Vaughn is trying to talk Chief Brody out of closing the beaches. “You yell, ‘Barracuda’ and everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell, ‘Shark’ and we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”

Mickelson didn’t panic. But it’s a safe bet everyone around him did.

The world’s No. 2 player said on national television that he was “publicly slandered,” an ominous choice of words that suggested lawyers would be involved if the tour didn’t handle the situation to his liking.

The question now is which mess is easier to fix.

So far, the only damage Woods has inflicted has been to himself and his family. He has lost endorsement deals with AT&T and Accenture, and his approval ratings have plunged.

The gloomy forecast for TV ratings cannot be measured unless Woods is gone longer than eight months, which is how much time he missed last year due to knee surgery. Ratings were slightly up at Torrey Pines for consecutive years without him. And remember, Woods has never played one-third of the tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. Those events have managed to survive.

The tour’s biggest concern will be trying to control the gallery when Woods returns, if not protecting the guys with whom Woods is playing. If a strip club will hire a plane at a tournament where Woods is not playing, what happens on the ground when he is playing?

Far more troublesome, though not as sensational, is the issue with wedges.

The Ping Eye 2 wedges, provided they were made before April 1, 1990, are approved for play, even though the depth and volume of the grooves in those wedges are not allowed. Attribute that to a pair of lawsuits Ping settled against the USGA (1990) and the PGA (1993) over square grooves. The settlements take precedence over any rules change.

What makes this situation awkward is that not everyone has access to them unless they find the wedges on eBay, in garages or used club bins. Padraig Harrington spent the holidays giving away his old clubs to charity – including his Pings – only to find out he could still use them.

First, however, is getting around this name-calling.

Asked about his “cheating” quote, McCarron didn’t back off the next day, although he described Mickelson’s actions as “bending the rules.” That would be akin to “barracuda.”

Still, the damage had been done.

Mickelson’s camp has been checking the Internet and has lost track of how many times “cheating” and “Mickelson” are found together.

For those who thought McCarron might apologize on Monday, he chose to clarify instead. He said he never called Mickelson a “cheater.” He only said that by using the Ping wedge, it was “cheating.” Glad to get that cleared up.

The tour can choose to fine or suspend McCarron under its “conduct unbecoming a professional” policy, which prohibits players from making comments to the media that unreasonably attack or disparage other players (among other things).

Then again, the tour has a policy of not disclosing discipline.

Perhaps the most troubling part of Ping chairman John Solheim’s statement on Monday is that he told the USGA and PGA Tour in July 2007 that changing the regulations on grooves could lead to what is happening now – confusion, consternation, accusations.

Finchem was to meet with players Tuesday night at Riviera and speak to the media on Wednesday. The best-case scenario is that McCarron and Mickelson can make peace, and that Finchem can find a solution to the Ping wedges.

Then he can go back to wondering when Woods will return.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.