Notes: Amateur mistakenly swipes pro's clubs

By Doug FergusonSeptember 3, 2013, 5:54 pm

NORTON, Mass. – John Merrick has never experienced a pro-am moment quite like the Deutsche Bank Championship last week.

Neither has Chris Kirk, who can laugh about it now.

Kirk didn't get in the pro-am at the TPC Boston, so he went to the range for a few hours and was gone by mid-morning. He was done for the day. His clubs were not.

Turns out an amateur in the afternoon needed rental clubs and was sent to the clubhouse. He went to the locker room instead, and next to his temporary locker – right below Kirk's – was a Callaway staff bag with a full set of clubs, balls, gloves and even a pair of shoes. The words ''Chris Kirk'' apparently meant nothing to him. He grabbed the bag and headed out to play.

His pro in the group was Merrick, who found it odd that an amateur would have a staff bag belonging to Kirk.

''It takes a hole or two to get your bearings, get the names right,'' Merrick said. ''I noticed the Chris Kirk bag. I was thinking he got it an auction or something. Guys get new bags all the time. I didn't think anything of it. But he hits this drive on No. 2 and popped it up into the trees on the right. He turned the club over and goes, 'This rental set has a driver that says 'prototype.' And I'm thinking, 'Prototype for a rental set? There's no way.'

''I asked him where he got the bag and he said, 'It was next to my locker so I grabbed it.'''

Merrick immediately sent a text message to a PGA Tour official that said, ''You better get a rental set and size 11 shoes out here now.''

That's right – shoes.

Kirk, meanwhile, was back at his hotel when he received a call from the Tour and headed back to the golf course.

''It was a bizarre situation, to say the least,'' Kirk said. ''At first, I didn't think it was funny. But I got away unscathed. I lost a glove and a sleeve of balls. The shoes kind of gross me out. It's the only pair of shoes I have with me, so I have to wear them.”

''I feel violated a little bit,'' he said with a smile, ''but I'll be all right.''

Merrick took a picture on his phone of the amateur carrying Kirk's bag and wearing the shoes. He kept in touch with Kirk to keep his mind at ease.

''He was texting me as we were making the turn,'' Merrick said. ''He was like, 'Get that guy out of my shoes.' I said, 'Chris, it was only two holes.'''

There was one other twist. Before picking up the bag in the locker room, the amateur decided he didn't like the driver and one of the hybrids, so he replaced them with some clubs he saw leaning against the locker.

''I guess he didn't like the look of my driver, so he took the backup,'' Kirk said. ''Definitely a crazy situation.''

TREVOR TIME: Trevor Immelman never imagined a Tour event would be on his list of most important victories.

His first win was the South African Open. Another big moment was the Nedbank Challenge, because that's where South African kids could watch the world's best players. the Masters is in a league of its own. ''The biggest tournament on earth,'' said Immelman, who won his green jacket in 2008.

And the Hotel Fitness Championship?

''From a timing standpoint, from the situation I'm in right now, it's absolutely huge for me,'' Immelman said.

Immelman lost the better part of three years with a left wrist injury that required surgery. He lost his PGA Tour card – the same year his Tour exemption from the Masters ran out – when he finished No. 143 in the FedEx Cup.

It wasn't a matter of pride to go to the Finals. Immelman had enough poor scores over the last few years to get beyond that. He went to Indiana with a good attitude, improved putting and determination to get back to the big leagues. And that's where he's headed.

The win assures Immelman will be among the top 25 on the special money list to get his card, and now he wants more. The leading money-winner of the four tournaments is exempt into The Players Championship.

Most exciting of all is his health.

''That was the only positive I had taken from the year – I was injury-free,'' he said. ''I didn't have to worry about anything. That's something that really excites me. Because when you start withdrawing from tournaments, it becomes a habit. And that's an awful situation to be in.''

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The tournament that kicked off the Ryder Cup points table used to attract a strong field on the European Tour, or at least the field was stronger than usual every other year. But at the Wales Open last week, the only player at Celtic Manor who played on the previous team was Francesco Molinari. He missed the cut.

The field featured recent Ryder Cup players Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke. European captain Paul McGinley hit the opening shot to commemorate the occasion. He tied for eighth.

It's a product of so many European players having PGA Tour membership and playing in America this time of the year during the FedEx Cup playoffs. Eight players from the winning 2012 team were at the TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship.

For years, the Omega European Masters in Switzerland used to be first event in the qualifying process. That tournament is this week, and even though the PGA Tour has no tournament, Omega is not expecting many top players. That's why the title sponsor is looking for a new date away from the FedEx Cup.

''We're now working very strongly with the European Tour to get the date changed,'' Omega president Stephen Urquhart said in a recent interview. ''Let's face it. Where we are now in September, right in the middle of the FedEx Cup, doesn't work.''

The plan is to move to July for 2015, one week after the British Open.

Rory McIlroy has an endorsement deal with Omega, but he won't be going to Switzerland during his off week, and Omega is fine with that.

''Rory told me he loves Crans-sur Sierre and he is an Omega ambassador,'' Urquhart said. ''But I can't ask him to give up the potential of winning $10 million to come over for one week.''

DIVOTS: Tim Herron is recovering from injuries to his right knee cap and meniscus, which has kept him out of the Finals. He says he will have eight events next year on a medical extension to get his card. In the meantime, he went to Canada to fish for walleye, discouraged to learn there was a limit (two) and no beer could be consumed on the boat. Talk about a tough year. ... Rory McIlroy has made eight double bogeys over his last two tournaments. ... The Old Course at St. Andrews is raising its green fee by 5 pounds for 2014. It will cost 160 pounds (about $250) during peak season next year. ... The NCAA meeting next week includes a proposal for the Division I women's golf championship to switch to match play.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Players with at least a share of the lead going into the final round have won only two of the last 10 FedEx Cup playoff events.

FINAL WORD: ''He's been there before. I've been there before. Everyone that's out here has been in that situation. ... It's always tough to lose when you're leading. It's part of the game.'' - Henrik Stenson on Sergio Garcia losing a two-shot lead in the final round.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”