Notes: DJ's new junior event has eyes on China

By Doug FergusonNovember 11, 2015, 12:37 am

SHANGHAI - Dustin Johnson has already made a name for himself in China with his golf. He won the HSBC Champions two years ago, and was closing in on the lead Sunday until a bad break with his wedge. The ball hit the pin and caromed into the water on the par-5 eighth hole, turning a sure birdie into a double bogey.

The next step could be making an impact with juniors. His coach at Coastal Carolina, Allen Terrell, has been coming to Shanghai for six years to teach at Sheshan International and to educate families on how their children can get golf scholarships in America. Terrell runs the Dustin Johnson Golf School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Johnson says they are looking into prospects for starting such a school in China.

The first step is a golf tournament.

The inaugural Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship is Feb. 13-15 at the TPC Myrtle Beach, and Terrell said there will be qualifiers held in China that would allow Chinese juniors to compete in the tournament. The tournament will be Presidents Day weekend, and also around the time of the Chinese New Year.

''Dustin always wanted to have a junior tournament, and then we have a strong influence from China,'' Terrell said. ''A group from China bought 23 golf courses in Myrtle Beach. We're trying to bring Chinese families over, show them around and explain the college system.''

The PGA Tour launched its China circuit last year and it produced Haotong Li, who played well on the Web.com Tour this year and tied for seventh in the HSBC. Terrell said he first came over as a coach because he saw China as an untapped market. Other golf programs haven't made much of a difference.

''Look at the number of players from China playing in college,'' he said. ''It's a small percentage. The transition is difficult. A lot of them haven't made it more than one year, and that's going to hurt China down the road. We're hoping to bridge that.''


FALLING PHIL: Phil Mickelson dropped to No. 27 in the world this week, the wrong kind of milestone.

The last time he was out of the top 25 was Sept. 10, 1995. That was right after Tiger Woods won his second straight U.S. Amateur. It was two years after Jordan Spieth was born. Greg Norman was three months into his longest reign (96 weeks) at No. 1 in the world.

Because he is not playing again until the CareerBuilder Challenge in the California desert, Mickelson could be out of the top 50 the next time he tees it up. He hasn't been outside the top 50 since the week before Thanksgiving in 1993.


GENDER BLENDERS: LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan believes there's a place for men and women to share the same stage in golf.

He's just not sure when.

Among the ideas that have been kicked around over the years is for the PGA Tour and LPGA to compete on the same course at the same time, perhaps at a winners-only event or in a match play format. They could play their own set of tees and compete separately, different from the Mixed Team event from nearly two decades ago.

The U.S. Open and Women's Open was a big hit in consecutive weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 last year. And the Olympics will feature men and women on the same course is successive weeks next year in Rio.

But playing the same course at the same time? Whan says PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem ''shares that interest.''

''I work on next year's schedule, Tim works on 2019, so we have a slightly different sense of urgency in getting there,'' Whan said. ''I've brought a few specific suggestions of tournaments where I thought we could do something together. It's not tomorrow. But I feel comfortable we'll get there.''


SURPRISE CALL: HSBC Champions winner Russell Knox has been managed by R.J. Nemers his entire career, and he still doesn't know how it happened.

Nemers founded Icon Sports, which recently was acquired by IMG, and he counts Ian Poulteramong his longtime clients. But his phone call to Knox came out of blue. He was at PGA Tour Q-School for the second time and failed miserably.

''I was at second stage and almost finished last,'' Knox said. ''I was miles away from getting to the final stage. I went home and was depressed because I would have to wait another year to get on the Web.com. My phone rang and it was R.J. He said, 'We're interested in signing you. We think we're going to make it.' I had never spoken to an agent. I always thought it was the coolest thing if you had an agent.

''It was the nicest thing anyone had done for me.''

Knox played four years at Jacksonville University and even now can't figure out why Nemers would be interested.

''I told him that 25 guys just make it through to the final stage from my site, and there are six or eight other sites. 'Why are you picking me?''' Knox said. ''He said, 'We think you're going to be better than them.' He'll be my agent for life.''


PRICE SUPPORT: Peter Thomson was captain three times in the Presidents Cup, which included the lone International team victory. Gary Player also was International captain three times, including the tie in South Africa.

Adam Scott is in favor of Nick Price getting a third shot at it.

The International team nearly pulled off a remarkable rally in South Korea until Chris Kirk made a 15-foot birdie putt that led to a 15 1/2-14 1/2 victory. Price was adamant that the number of matches be lowered to help make it a closer contest, and it's difficult to deny that made a difference this year.

What didn't change was the outcome, and Scott believes Price should get one more chance.

''I think that would be great if he is,'' Scott said. ''I think he did a fantastic job for us this year. He learned so much after his first one and put that experience to good use. My personal feeling is I'd love to have Nick be the captain again and try and get a win for him. It would be something special for all the players, but something very special for Nick and his career.''


DIVOTS: Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar will have new caddies for 2016. Mahan and John Wood parted after nine years, and Wood went to work for Kuchar, who split with Lance Bennett. Mahan said he had a couple of caddies in mind. ... Sei Young Kim has wrapped up the points-based Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year on the LPGA tour. Kim won three times this year. ... Branden Grace is buying a house in the West Palm Beach, Florida, area for his first full year on the PGA Tour. His only other home is in South Africa. The tournaments he has never played that excite him the most? The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. ''I've never played Pebble Beach,'' Grace said. ''I know it's with amateurs, but it's Pebble Beach.'' ... Sports Illustrated selected Jack Nicklaus to receive its newly named Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Three of the four World Golf Championships were won by players from Britain and Ireland - Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Shane Lowry (Ireland) and Russell Knox (Scotland).


FINAL WORD: ''A full month of killing birds, drinking beer and watching football. All the stuff I wish I was doing now.'' - Kevin Kisner, on plans for his offseason.

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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 GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

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.



FALLING

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.”