Notes Finchem in China Caddie of the Year

By Doug FergusonNovember 11, 2009, 2:57 am
MELBOURNE, Australia – Six months after the PGA Tour officially got involved in the HSBC Champions, commissioner Tim Finchem was front and center at a news conference and later at the TV trophy presentation to Phil Mickelson.

Small wonder some referred to it as the start of the PGA Tour’s “Asian invasion.”

Finchem said his 18-day trip to Asia – part of it a vacation with his wife, Holly – was to meet sponsors and clients he had not visited in some time, and to meet potential customers. Even so, his comments at a Sunday news conference led to one question.

Where will all this lead?

This was the first World Golf Championship in China, even though the PGA Tour does not yet recognize it as official and might not for a few years. Finchem said it “may evolve in the next two or three years.” How that will make a difference remains a mystery unless he’s waiting for more PGA Tour-sanctioned events in Asia.

Finchem said he has been speaking with Zhang Xiaonang, executive vice president of the China Golf Association, about three ways to grow the game – through a First Tee facility in China, by getting the tour involved in building TPC golf courses and helping stage tournaments.

Finchem said Zhang has asked whether the PGA Tour could sanction an event, and that the tour has agreed to work with “other members” of the International Federation of PGA Tours.

That includes European Tour chief executive George O’Grady, who already has established a presence in China and elsewhere in Asia, and the Asian Tour, which is battling with OneAsia for support from the China Golf Association.

One thing appeared certain: While the world of golf is larger than ever, it can appear to be shrinking. Three tours (Europe, Asian, United States) indeed can make for a crowd.

CADDIE OF THE YEAR: In one of the best evenings in golf, Billy Foster was awarded the “Caddie of the Year” on the European Tour for his work with Lee Westwood on and off the golf course.

It was a festive occasion for the caddies, with lesser awards handed out for such things as best club selection and best excuse. Westwood helped host the evening with Sky Sports commentator Richard Boxall, but perhaps even more impressive was a dozen tour players who stayed well into the evening, such as Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey, and even Americans Nick Watney and Brian Gay.

Foster, who also has caddied for Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and even at a Presidents Cup for Tiger Woods, has been on the bag as Westwood leads the Race to Dubai with two tournaments left. In July, he raised about $130,000 for charity by walking from Loch Lomond to Turnberry with Westwood’s golf bag on his back.

Geoff Ogilvy will be switching over to Titleist for the 2010 season.

Ogilvy’s deal with Cobra expires this year, and parent company Acushnet is moving away from a Cobra presence on tour. Ogilvy, who has won three World Golf Championships and a U.S. Open in the last four years, said it was a sensible move.

“It’s in the family,” he said, noting Titleist also is under the Acushnet umbrella and he would continue playing the ball. “If you’re going to be making a change from one manufacturer to another, that’s the least stressful.”

He said he has been practicing with a new blade from Titleist, and that the only significant change would be the driver.

APPLEBY’S YEAR: Stuart Appleby, who lives in Orlando, Fla., is No. 134 on the money list and could have kept his card by finishing at least 15th at Disney this week in the final PGA Tour event of the year.

Appleby also is from Australia, and he decided against Disney to play at Kingston Heath in the Australian Masters this year.

He said Tuesday it was an easy choice.

“I already had plans for my junior foundation, and Tiger has committed to spend an hour with the kids, which is awesome,” Appleby said. “Plus, I think this is one of the top two courses in the world. I really had more to gain than lose.”

Appleby has not decided whether to use one of his exemptions from the career money list, preferring to save them for later. He said he would let the Tour know in two weeks. Appleby might spend 2010 asking for sponsor exemptions, which shouldn’t be too hard to find for an eight-time winner who has not finished lower than 55th on the money list since his rookie season.

As to what happened this year, he isn’t quite sure.

“I think I just fell into some bad habits,” Appleby said. “I forgot about the innocence of playing golf. I spent too much time trying to fix something. It was like a year of the dog chasing his tail.”

MIA DOWN UNDER: Robert Allenby made history Down Under in 2005 as the only player to win the Australian Triple Crown – victories in the Masters, PGA and Australian Open.

He won’t be able to repeat that this year. The Melbourne native is not playing any of them.

Allenby has played the last three weeks on the European Tour – Spain, Singapore and Shanghai – and needed a week off before the Dubai World Championship. He also decided to play in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, opposite the Australian Open.

As for the Australian PGA the following week? Allenby said he needed to spend time with his ailing mother-in-law, although he had problems last year with how the tournament was run.

DIVOTS: Steve Marino finished his week in China and headed home to rest before venturing out again. He is playing consecutive weeks in December at the Australian Open and the Australian PGA. “I think it will be cool,” Marino said. “You’ve got to do this while you’re young.” … The Australian Masters was added to the European tour schedule last month, giving Rod Pampling (No. 71) one last chance to crack into the top 60 and qualify for the Dubai World Championship.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has never finished out of the top 10 in stroke play at the World Golf Championships.

FINAL WORD: “Getting away from golf is good for you. It gets the grumps out of you.” – Geoff Ogilvy.
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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.