Notes Belly putters and stories of the claret jug

By Doug FergusonJanuary 8, 2010, 5:20 am
SBS ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii – It looked like an act of desperation last year when Retief Goosen, whose pure stroke brought him a pair of U.S. Open titles, switched to the belly putter at the start of the season.

He eventually ditched it for the conventional putter and went on to win the Transitions Championship, pick up 10 finishes in the top 10 and restore his name among the top 20 in the world ranking.

So why was the belly putter back in his bag when he teed off on Thursday in the SBS Championship?

The bigger question is how long it will stay there.

Goosen believes the belly putter helped to get him pointed in the right direction early last year, so he thought he would at least start out the season doing the same thing.

“It’s a good training device,” he said.

He messed around with it in South Africa and said he would keep it in play at least through the Hawaii swing, and possibly through a U.S. West Coast schedule that will include Pebble Beach and then Match Play.

“If I do well with it, who knows? Maybe I’ll keep it in there longer,” Goosen said.

His goal for the year is to “put my name up there in majors,” and that was one area he was lacking the last few years. Dating to his first major at the 2001 U.S. Open, Goosen went consecutive years without a top three in the majors for the first time. His best was a tie for fifth at the British Open, where he started the final round two shots out of the lead.

CINK AND THE JUG: Stewart Cink has received honorary membership at four golf clubs in the Atlanta area, and he found a gracious way to show his appreciation.

All four are getting a turn displaying the claret jug he won at the British Open.

The jug has been at the TPC Sugarloaf since late November, although Cink is an automatic member there as a U.S. PGA Tour member. He already has lent it to East Lake Golf Club. Still on the list is The River Club and Berkeley Hills Country club.

“At some point between last year and next year, all four will have a chance to display the jug for a while,” Cink said.

MAUI REGULARS: Stephen Ames and Rory Sabbatini are back on Maui, which is a little misleading. Even if they had not qualified for the SBS Championship, they would have been here.

Both have been coming to this side of the island for the Christmas holidays for the last several years.

Ames has a timeshare down the coast at Kaanapali, while Sabbatini stays with his family at Kapalua. The South African earned high marks from the staff for his willingness to play with members or resort guests during his vacation.

“I’ll play with anyone,” Sabbatini said. “It’s all good by me.”

Ames arrived on Dec. 16 and played golf only four times before getting into practice mode for the year. And the only reason he played was because of the group of friends he brought down from Calgary.

“It’s a bit of a bonus for being here – or playing, I should say,” he said. “The hardest thing was Monday morning putting on a pair of trousers because I’ve been in shorts and a swimsuit all this time. So it’s been tough.”

Ames turns 46 this year, although he was only joking when he said he already was thinking about retirement. He plans to continue playing well into his Champions Tour career.

But he wasn’t kidding about retiring to Maui.

“We are looking for a family place here,” he said. “This is where we are going to retire – four months here, the other eight months playing golf and being in Calgary.”

It makes sense. Ames grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. He’s essentially going from one island to another.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.