Notes: Choi works hard to master English

By Doug FergusonDecember 25, 2012, 8:16 pm
Na Yeon Choi won her first major at the U.S. Women's Open, and she closed the season by winning the LPGA Titleholders.

But her most remarkable performance came when the season was over.

Players for whom English is their second (or third) language can get by in an interview with print reporters. They tend to be a lot more uncomfortable when cameras are involved. Choi showed how much progress she has made the day after winning the Titleholders. She went into the studio for a live segment on Golf Channel's ''Morning Drive.''

The LPGA staff helped her prepare for questions that might be asked, and when it didn't go according to script, Choi still handled it beautifully.

That wasn't an accident.

As hard as Choi has worked on her game, she might have worked even harder on her English. Last year, she hired a personal tutor – Greg Morrison, a Canadian based in South Korea – and brought him with her on the road. She had a one-hour lesson every day, and practiced her English with him in casual conversation.

Se Ri Pak would have been proud. The pioneer for South Koreans on the LPGA Tour, Pak preached years ago about the importance of learning English. Along with fitting in, Pak said it would make them feel more comfortable in public and ultimately improve their golf.

''First year when I was here, I couldn't speak English well and then very hard to tell my feelings to people, even media or fans or even swing coach,'' Choi said. ''When I learned English and when I tell my feelings to people, I feel way more comfortable than before. I think that made it good golfer, too. And on the golf course, I can relax and I can talk with the other players.''

Morrison couldn't travel with her this year, though they still practiced through Skype. She had another one-hour lesson during the Titleholders and planned to meet with him again while she was home during the offseason.

''We talk about not only golf, we talk about anything,'' Choi said. ''Like, I said I'm going to look for a new house and he tried to help me with which house is better for me. He's more like, not just English tutor, he's more like manager or assistant to me.''

Do they ever talk baseball?

''Not really,'' she said. ''I think he's a hockey fan.''


RANKING TOURS: Most of the world's best players are going to the Middle East in the winter and the Far East in the fall, both part of the European Tour.

But over the course of the year, the PGA Tour is where the biggest offering of world ranking points can be found.

Throw out the four majors and the four World Golf Championships, and the PGA Tour averaged 46.7 points for the winners of its tournaments, compared with 34.9 points for the winners of regular European Tour events.

Add the majors and the WGCs, and the winners received an average of 54.3 points on the PGA Tour and 44.6 points on the European Tour.

The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is guaranteed 64 points as the flagship event on the European Tour. After that, the strongest fields on the European Tour (based on points awarded the winner) were Abu Dhabi and the season-ending event in Dubai (58 points), and the BMW Masters in Shanghai (56).

The Players Championship gets 80 points as the PGA Tour's flagship event. That was followed by The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship (74), the BMW Championship (70), Memorial (68), and the Northern Trust Open and Tour Championship (62).

Along with attracting the best from all over the world – the top 28 players in the world are PGA Tour members – it is helped immensely in the ranking by the FedEx Cup playoffs. Those events are nearly as strong as WGCs.

An argument could be made that The Barclays features the strongest field of any PGA Tour event, including The Players Championship. It might not have as many players from the top 50 or top 100 in the world ranking, but it has the top 125 players based on current form.

Take a bow, Nick Watney.


TIME TO RECHARGE: Before winning his final event of the year at Sherwood, Graeme McDowell talked all week about how badly he was in need of a 10-week break.

He feels he made a mistake by playing the first FedEx Cup playoff event, and that he was out of gas even in the high-charged atmosphere of the Ryder Cup. And that concerned him. He says he played so much this year that he lost an estimated 10 percent of what he calls his ''buzziness.''

''I love the sport. I love to play,'' he said. ''But too much of a good thing ... you start going through the motions. I don't want to be like that. I want to get my excitement level up for the game.''

McDowell wants to cut back on his schedule, aiming for about 26 tournaments a year on two tours. But where to cut back is going to be difficult, for there are too many good tournaments, especially at the end of the year.

''The end of the year has become a joke,'' he said. ''It's almost too much golf.''

Being among the top 50 in the world and having Europe as his home tour (meaning he doesn't need releases from the PGA Tour), McDowell said he gets to cherry-pick the tournaments he plays. But there are so many important events to him that he can't get to some places he would like to play.

That includes the Memorial at Muirfield Village.

''I'm dying to go there,'' McDowell said. ''But I looked at the schedule and, nope, I can't go.''

To play Muirfield Village would mean four straight weeks in three countries, and no doubt would cost him plenty of ''buzziness.''


BIGGEST TROPHY: The iGATE CEO Cup thinks so much of its new tournament – executives of Global 2000 companies in North America on Jan. 12-13 on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass – that it wanted a trophy to mark the occasion.

So it commissioned the largest gold sports trophy in the world, even bigger than the FIFA World Cup trophy.

Designed by India-based sculptor Amit Pabuwal, the iGATE CEO Cup trophy will be 21 inches tall, weigh 18 pounds of gold and be adorned with diamonds and rubies. The World Cup trophy is more than 14 inches tall and weighs 11 pounds.

''The iGATE CEO Cup is a premier event and we should have a trophy that a CEO will be proud to lift,'' iGATE chief executive Phaneesh Murthy said.

Gary Player is the co-host of the $100,000 event, with the CEOs donating all the prize money to their chosen charities.


DIVOTS: Tom Lehman was voted Champions Tour player of the year, even though Roger Chapman won two majors this year – the Senior PGA Championship and the Senior U.S. Open, the two most prestigious events in senior golf. ... The fledgling OneAsia Tour is holding one of its two Q-schools in the United States. The tour cites ''unprecedented demand'' for staging two Q-schools, one of them at Industry Hills east of Los Angeles on Jan. 29, the other a week later in Malaysia. OneAsia chairman Sang Y. Chun said more Asia-Pacific players were based in California, and the additional Q-school would create more awareness of the tour in the U.S. ... Kia Motors America has signed a multiyear contract extension with the LPGA Tour to sponsor the Kia Classic, which will move next year from La Costa to Aviara Golf Club. It will be played March 21-24.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Robert Karlsson started the year at No. 24 in the world. He ended it by going to Q-school to earn back his PGA Tour card.


FINAL WORD: ''It's a game of mistakes, it's a game of misses. And if you dwell on all those misses and mistakes, you're not going anywhere.'' – Steve Stricker.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)