Notes: Caddie wants another shot; Tiger's woes

By Doug FergusonNovember 1, 2011, 8:07 pm

SHANGHAI – After spending nearly a decade as a caddie, one tough year wasn’t enough to keep Brett Waldman from another shot at trying to make it as a player.

Waldman gave up his job as the caddie for Camilo Villegas last year when he made it to the final stage of Q-school, giving him status on the Nationwide Tour. It didn’t quite turn out the way he had hoped. After making the cut in his debut in Panama, Waldman went six months and 14 tournaments before making another check.

He finished his first year at No. 193 on the Nationwide Tour money list with $6,958 - about half of what he used to earn in one week as the caddie for Villegas.

“When I was missing all those cuts in a row, I definitely was missing caddying,” Waldman said from his home near Dallas.

He decided to start over, and a bogey-free round of 68 in the final round two weeks ago was enough to make it out of the first stage of Q-school. He returns to the TPC Craig Ranch in two weeks for the second stage.

“I worked so hard to get my game in shape, and it didn’t come into shape until the end of the year,” Waldman said. “I just wasn’t in any tournaments. I was fully exempt, but only for 10 events, which was my own fault. I made one cut out of 10, and my status dropped by like 35 players. I was in events easily, and then I had a hard time getting in. Therefore, I had to Monday qualify or get an exemption.”

A year ago, Waldman felt as though he couldn’t pass up a chance at playing pro golf. It might be different this year if he makes it through to the final stage, but still has only Nationwide Tour status.

He made it through the year, but financially says he “took a pretty good hit.”

If he were to get his PGA Tour card, he would come out to the arena where he once only caddied. But to spend another year in the minor leagues might be difficult if he started getting phone calls from players looking for a caddie.

“Getting a good bag is always tempting,” he said. “Especially after a year like this.”


MIXING IT UP: For the first time since 2003, the majors were won by players who had never won one before. Throw in the World Golf Championships, and it’s evident that 2011 was the year of the breakthrough.

First-time major winners were Charl Schwartzel at the Masters, Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Open, Darren Clarke at the British Open and Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship.

Luke Donald won his first WGC event in February at the Match Play Championship, followed by Nick Watney collecting his first world championship at Doral a month later. At Firestone, Adam Scott kept the streak alive by capturing his first WGC event.

Since the WGCs began in 1999, there was never a year in which first-timers won the majors and WGCs.


HARD KNOX: Russell Knox started the year with no status on any tour. He wound up at No. 12 on the Nationwide Tour to earn his shot in the big leagues, a spot he never imagined when he was toiling away in the north of Scotland and wondering if he belonged.

Knox recalls being selected to play for Scotland in a European junior event in Spain, where he saw Rory McIlroy as a teenager and played on the same team as Lloyd Saltman.

“I remember being on the range thinking to myself, ‘These guys are way better than me.’ Watching them hit it, the sound off the club was different,” Knox said. “That was my moment. I thought, ‘OK, I have to significantly improve from now or I might as well give up.”’

And so he went to work, earning a golf scholarship to Jacksonville University, working at a local golf course and doing well enough on the mini-tours that he could pay his own way as he kept his hopes alive.

Knox, who relies more on accuracy than length, got into the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook through Monday qualifying (he missed the cut), then headed west and tried to Monday qualify at a Nationwide event in northern California. He earned one of the spots, tied for second in the Fresh Express Classic to get status for the year, and won three months later in Chiquita Classic in Ohio.

The highlight was getting a letter from Arnold Palmer congratulating him on his win. Palmer’s design company built the TPC River Bend course on which he won.

“My dad is a huge Palmer fan, and he didn’t believe it,” Knox said.

Knox still has a hard time believing that the Scottish kid who once thought he wasn’t good enough will be teeing it up in Honolulu next year as a full member of the PGA Tour.

“It won’t sink in until I’m on the first tee and the heart is pounding,” Knox said. “I still can’t believe I’m going to have that. I can’t wait for the chance to see if I’m good enough.”


HIDDEN TIGER: Tiger Woods has gone two years without a win, and his fall from the top of golf has been illustrated by his failure to qualify for the Tour Championship in 2010 for the first time in his career, and his failure this season to even reach the FedEx Cup playoffs, giving him a forced six-week break.

This week presents another first in the worst kind of way. Even though Woods had no intentions of playing the HSBC Champions, this is the first time he has not been eligible to play a World Golf Championship. This from a guy who has won 15 of the WGC events.

Woods slipped to No. 56 in the world ranking this week. He has only two tournaments left this year, then as many as two events next year to make sure he doesn’t miss another WGC. Only the top 64 in the world ranking get to the Match Play Championship.


DIVOTS: Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, advanced to the second stage of Q-school after being the medalist at one of the seven first-stage qualifiers. Among those who failed to get out of the first stage were former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An and Kevin Tway. … J.J. Killeen won the Nationwide Tour money list with $414,273. It was the lowest amount to win the money title since Ken Duke had $382,443 in 2006. … The John Deere Classic, which had a $4.5 million purse, raised $5.29 million for local charities this year. … The Nationwide Tour Championship will return to the TPC Craig Ranch outside of Dallas next year. … Tom Lehman will have a chance this week to be the first player to be named player of the year on the Nationwide Tour, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Webb Simpson shot every round in the 60s at eight PGA Tour events this year. He won two of those.


FINAL WORD: “I used to fly coach and didn’t like it. And then somebody told me I should try playing better.” - Ian Poulter.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''